By Elizabeth Sutton, PhD
Last year at the Western Museums Association (WMA) 2012 Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, the Utah State University (USU) Museum of Anthropology received the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence for our new exhibit, Through the Looking Glass: Obsidian Travel and Trade in the Great Basin. This Award was particularly meaningful for our museum as we are a teaching museum. Undergraduate and Graduate students at USU coordinate and develop all of our museum programs and exhibits under the direction of the Deputy Director/Curator.
The Redd Award for exhibition excellence has positively impacted on our museum in a variety of ways. First, the students involved in producing the exhibit are more confident in their abilities and this confidence in the training and education they are receiving has filtered down through our museum studies certificate program sparking a great deal of friendly competition. The recognition of their accomplishment in creating this wonderful exhibit has inspired our students to set high personal standards and become more active in seeking out additional internship opportunities within the local arts and museums community.
At the institutional level, the Award has created renewed interest by our university in both our community programs and our training opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in museums. Because of this increased interest, we recently started a blog, The Teaching Museum, which documents the many projects, internships, and events in which our students participate. We have found the blog to be a great tool for creating awareness of our community programs at the local level, and a way to promote our museum studies certificate program.
As we are a small museum, we were surprised to have been nominated for the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence last year, and even more surprised to have won the honor. I would encourage any museum, no matter what your size or budget to apply for the Award if you have an eligible exhibit. Not only did the Award bring recognition to our exhibit and the students who produced the exhibit, but it has also inspired us to become more active in the professional community and set even higher expectations for our future exhibits and programs.
We hope to see you all this October in Salt Lake City! Be on the lookout for our motivated Utah State University students. They are the next generation of Utah museum professionals and looking forward to networking with you and sharing their innovative vision for the future of museums.
Editorial note: To learn more about the exhibition honored by 2012 Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence please see Elizabeth Sutton’s previous blog post here. The deadline for the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence is July 31, 2013. For more information, please visit: http://www.westmuse.org/conferences/awards_scholarships/charles_redd_award.html.
Elizabeth Sutton received her B.A. in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles and her M.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently a Ph.D candidate in Anthropology at UCSB where she specializes in household archaeology. With over 12 years of experience in education and 7 years of museum experience, Elizabeth has trained countless students and volunteers in curation and museum management and held curatorial positions with the John Cooper Archaeology and Paleontology Center at Cal State Fullerton, the National Park Service, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and the UCSB Repository for Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections. She currently serves as deputy director/curator of the Utah State University Museum of Anthropology where she also teaches courses in anthropology and museum studies and directs the interdisciplinary certificate program in museum studies for both undergraduate and graduate students.