Nicole Bach

Year of Graduation:  2009
Major(s):  History/Theology
Graduate School:  In May 2014 I earned my M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University.  

Current Position:  
I am the Program Curator at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, MN.  My position includes a range responsibilities, including coordinating programs, curating exhibits, grant writing, evaluating programs & exhibits, and partnering with community organizations.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After graduating from St. Ben’s, I packed up my things and moved to Japan to teach English as a Second Language.  For the next year I considered Japan my home.  Five to six days a week I taught conversational English to a range of ages (2-90 years old) and learners.  This experience wasn’t just about traveling the world.  I learned teaching wasn’t for me and changed my career path to the museum field.  

My first position was at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I started at the bottom, working multiple front-of-house positions. After gaining an understanding of museum operations, volunteering in the Collections, and many informational interviews later, I confirmed the museum field matched my skillset and interests.

Around the same time I accepted a temporary position with CSB/SJU professor Annette Atkins.  My role was collecting oral histories from St. Ben’s alums to include in her book, Challenging Women Since 1913:  The College of Saint Benedict.  This experience has benefited me ever since.  For example, during graduate school my class worked at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (NYC), integrating veterans’ oral histories into the programming and exhibits. Even in my current position I use oral histories to help make history come alive in exhibits and programming. 

While completing my M.A. I worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in the Visitor Member Services.  During this time I aligned my job with my graduate work via an audience analysis project.  This led to a paid internship at the Minnesota Historical Society where I honed these skills.  My responsibilities as an Evaluation Intern included supporting survey design, data collection, data entry, audience research, data analysis and visualization, and report writing.  These skills have benefited me in grant writing and proving quantitative & qualitative impact to stakeholders.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
My advice is to have fortitude. The museum world is highly competitive, and it takes time to work your way up. The field is quickly becoming multidisciplinary, and it helps to have knowledge and experience of the museum from a range of perspectives (educator, administrator, curator, etc.). To do this, I strongly recommend volunteering or interning.

What skills are important in your field?
Skills that are important to the museum field are being a clear and effective communicator, understanding the nuanced museum world and its growing challenges in the 21st century, knowledge of and experience in your specific niche, and technical training in computer programs.  Having an administrative background is incredibly beneficial as the museum structure changes and evolves over time.

(July 2015)