I teach part-time at one of the local universities, adjunct professor is what they call me, and, as a way of introducing myself at the beginning of each semester, I ask the class: “How many of you grew up wanting to work at a museum?” In the twenty-six years I’ve been doing this, only one student – one out of maybe 1,000 kids - ever raised their hand.
But even though the overwhelming majority of us never contemplate the museum field during our formative years, those of us who actually embed in the industry find the work fascinating, invigorating and something we can joyously do over the course of our entire professional careers.
And here’s why.
Most everybody we know enjoys storytelling. That’s what human beings do. We tell stories, listen to stories, read books, watch movies, peruse the internet and grab every newspaper, magazine, flier and brochure we can in search of the next story. Museum workers take huge delight in their day-to-day because, bottom line, they get to tell stories…for a living!
That certainly is true in the dynamic world of sports heritage where I’ve been hanging my hat for the past three decades. I get to take an artifact, let’s say a Babe Ruth bat, and then ‘interpret’ some component of his baseball career, maybe his home run prowess, using the bat as my point of reference.
A while back I was giving a Sports Legends Museum tour to former Green Bay Packer quarterback great Bart Starr. We paused in front of a case featuring the Baltimore Colts legendary QB, Johnny Unitas. I showed Bart Unitas’ first pro contract from 1956, which stipulated a $7,000 annual salary. Bart said, “That was my first year, too.” I asked him how much he made that year, and he replied, “$6,500; John beat me again!” And so that artifact, that 1956 Unitas contract, sparked a wonderful, off the wall story that drove straight to the competitive nature of both Starr and Unitas!
Museum work, where every day holds the promise of the next good story. Be sure to tell the kids.
See you out there!
Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.