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Finding Ways to Channel a Passion for History and Museums after Leaving the Field

by Dan Perusich, Director of Workforce and Community Development, Western Wyoming Community College on

stocksnap_603gfdtucuIn 2012, I made a difficult but necessary decision.  After six years of undergrad and graduate school followed by an arduous seven month period of under employment (nothing kills your motivation more than folding t-shirts with a Master’s degree!) and the ultimate triumph of securing a position at a state museum, I decided to step away from one of my great passions in life. The reasons are many, but the main decision was for the benefit of my family. I accepted a director-level position at a college and my now 4 year journey in higher education has been quite successful.

That’s not to say there are not moments of regret, feelings of longing for the amazing days when I was surrounded by artifacts, where I stood in front of groups as large as 300 and enthralled them with stories, moments when I came in contact with objects that touched my soul.

For quite some time, I let myself feel bad about it. Redundant questions like “How could I leave the field I love so much?” and “Why did I spend six years of my life preparing for something I am no longer associated with?” were typically coupled with high calorie foods or an adult beverage.

 

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After a move to the mountain states last year, I met a woman at a community event who happened to be the interim executive director of the regional museum. We chatted for quite some time and she followed this up a few days later informing me that her museum Board had an opening she wanted me to fill. Within 6 months, I was asked to Chair the Board.

Do not get me wrong, being on a museum Board and working in a museum are light years apart. For a couple of hours, once a month, we walk in through the back door of the museum and review financial reports and personnel matters. Occasionally we discuss events and activities, but it’s mostly the ED telling us of all the wonderful things her staff has accomplished over the past 4 weeks. I have to watch myself at times so I do not become carried away asking a million questions about a new interpretive program or about an outreach event at a local school.

It is so fulfilling to be able to connect with this museum.  It is a wonderful getaway from the daily grind of my current position. My wife laughs because, even though our meetings do not begin until seven pm, I typically leave the house at six so I can stroll through the museum for a bit and chat with the ED. It is almost therapeutic.

In the grand scheme, a few hours of museum work once a month is not much, but I cannot help walking into that museum and thinking to myself, “Maybe, someday, I’ll be walking through one of these doors as an employee again.”

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