Meet Anna, who works at the Hull-House Museum as a graduate assistant and museum educator. Trained as an art historian, Anna has easily moved into the position of an educator at a public history site. In this position, she is tasked with learning the history of the Hull-House Settlement and conveying this information to just about everyone- from curious second graders, to wandering tourists, to professional social workers. We’ve been so happy to have her here!
And, check out Anna’s earlier post about our staff visit to the Art Institute.
What are you studying at UIC?
I am getting my Master’s in Art History.
Whatis it like to be a museum educator at the Hull-House Museum?
We museum educators do a wide range of things at the museum. We greet every visitor who enters the Hull home, give tours of the museum and the Residents’ Dining Hall, and continue researching the history of this amazing space. And sometimes we get to serve soup!
What do you like about this work?
I have had the opportunity to lead a few of our Conversations for Social Change, where we meet with a group after their tour and talk about how the issues of the past relate to the present in different ways. I love leading these discussions because it is great to hear what our visitors take away from our tours and very interesting to learn what aspects of the museum had the strongest effect on them. In general, the Hull-House museum is such an important historical and contemporary space–it is an honor to work here.
What are the challenges?
One of the more challenging aspects of being a museum educator is having to keep my tour within the time limit! There is so much to say that I often wish I had more than an hour to spend discussing the history of the space, the artifacts, and anecdotes with our visitors. Another difficult aspect is finding the best way to present historically sensitive material, and understanding that there is always so much more to know about the topics we present to our visitors. I think the most challenging part of my job is being comfortable with the fact that I have just begun learning about a space that people devote their entire lives to researching–it is a humbling and rewarding experience.
Around Halloween, we had a lot of visitors looking for ghosts in the museum, or rather, peering through the museum windows, which is always entertaining. I have even had visitors bring in Hull-House ghost story literature! On a more serious note, it is very special when visitors come in with personal stories of the Hull-House Settlement, either from back when they were Hull-House kids, or stories that their family members have shared with them. It is wonderful to see them walk through the museum as a familiar, comforting space from their past.
Although I don’t have a favorite artifact, my favorite exhibit is the “Most Dangerous Woman.” The way public opinion of Jane Addams shifted throughout her life and after her death is fascinating, and the exhibit affirms, I believe, how social reform for human rights has no political boundaries. I also love our Hull-House History On Call project–the audio essays and commentary that the project provides bring such depth to the artifacts and exhibits. My personal favorite commentary is Prexy Nesbitt’s “On apartheid in Chicago today” which accompanies our Bowen Country Club exhibit.
I’m hard at work at school!
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to have my PhD and be teaching art history at the university-level.
If you were a Hull-House resident, who would you be?
Ellen Gates Starr. I respect her commitment to the arts and social reform, and how she wasn’t afraid to question the role of art in her life-long search for the best way to bring about social change.