Driven by Passion and Supported by Mentors, a Future Museum Professional Enters Grad School

From a young age, Lauren Woolf’21 knew she wanted to work in museums. At Beloit College, she found the hands-on experience and mentors she would need to realize her goal.

Not everyone knows what they want to be when they grow up. But Lauren Woolf’21 has always been fascinated by museums’ framing of histories, art, and ideas for attendees and researchers.

“I’ve always been very one track minded, which has both pros and cons as a thought process. I was lucky, though, in that I came in knowing what I wanted to do and was able to stick with it all four years.”

Now, shortly after graduating, her one-track focus is paying off: in September she’ll begin a dual-degree program in arts administration and art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Lauren’s choice of graduate program was not by happenstance. Instead it was grounded in a series of extended, hands-on experiences. Thus, shortly after arriving at Beloit College as a first-year student, she found a job working with Fred Burwell’86, the then college archivist who now is a retired emeritus staff member.

Fred “has a very unconventional educational background. But he provides incredible insight into how the fields of archives and museums are tied very closely together. Through this job, I learned how to do research properly and how the field has changed and grown over thirty years. I think that was the first open door and I fell in love with archival research.”

Having learned with Fred about the inner workings of an archive and their intersections with museums, Lauren turned to exploring museum work itself. Thus, she spent summers between semesters at Beloit interning with the Michener Art Museum and working at the Mercer Museum, both of which are located in Doylestown, PA.

And, during the academic year, following her stint in the college archives, she worked at Beloit College’s Wright Museum of Art. There, under the direction of the Wright’s academic curator, Christa Story, she inventoried the museum’s collection of Chinese snuff bottles and learned how to make the inventory records accessible to the public.

Ultimately, Lauren majored in both art history and history and minored in museum studies, finding mentors with unique strengths in each.

The museums’ professionals (Nicolette Meister and Manuel Ferreira in the Logan Museum of Anthropology, and art historian Joy Beckman and and Christa Story in the Wright Museum of Art) were “really engaged in pushing students’ development as young professionals. They make sure that we have the theoretical background to embark on either professional work or graduate studies, and that we also have a solid understanding of who we are.”

Lauren also forged deep connections with faculty in the history department. “Beatrice McKenzie, Daniel Bruckenhaus, and Ellen Joyce truly create and shape effective history majors who are community advocates and communicators for the history field. Although I’m not looking to become a historian per se, having a background in history is really important for my professional goals.”

Immediately after graduating from Beloit College in May 2021, Lauren further prepared for her graduate studies through an eight-week, virtual internship and seminar with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She also moved to Chicago, where she’ll live with another Beloiter while embarking on three-years of graduate study. In doing so, she very much hopes to retain joy in her chosen field.

“Keep that passion for what you do because if you’re giving so much of yourself, you should be getting something out of it.”

August 27, 2021

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