MEREDITH STEINFELS, Assistant Director, Digital Platforms, Media, and Archives
Hood Quarterly, spring 2022
The year 2020 brought a digital reckoning to museums. As the Hood Museum staff closed its spaces to the public, we sought to stay accessible, understanding that most of our outreach needed to become pandemic informed, reaching audiences in their spaces through a more digitally based practice. We also felt it was the right time as a teaching museum to be expansive both in our definition of what teaching is and in how we think about entry-level positions. We landed on creating an apprenticeship-style fellowship emphasizing on-the-job-learning and requiring no previous museum experience. Our staff would teach the disciplines of museum curation, registration, and education, and each fellowship position would then take on a digital emphasis to ensure that the work remained relevant and broadly accessible. In addition, we wanted to learn from our new employees, so we decided to name the program the "Mutual Learning Fellowship" to reflect the theme of reciprocity and knowledge exchange.
To demonstrate our sincere and deep commitment to this work, we sought discretionary funding rather than applying for a grant. We wanted to be clear that a fellowship intended for a more just and equitable workplace was among our core values. Our board of advisors quickly and generously stepped in, providing the funds we needed.
Based on feedback from colleagues and peers who have completed fellowships intended to diversify the museum field, we recognized that before even posting the job, we needed to create a strong structure for the program with dedicated projects and support teams. We also realized that the museum's current staff needed to work on our own internal processes. The Hood Museum engaged a series of consultants whose sessions ranged from communications training and professional coaching to the nuts and bolts of= working with museum fellows. We also spent several months crafting a meaningful job advertisement that included a detailed job description, our intentions as a museum, instructions for application, salary and benefits details, a rough timeline for the applicants, and contact information. We felt that in order to create an equitable application process, we needed to eliminate any guesswork or industry know-how from our ads.
Out of a pool of approximately ninety applicants, we hired Nichelle Gaumont (Registration & Collections), Jayde Xu (Education & Public Programs), and Beatriz Yanes Martinez (Curatorial & Exhibitions). Each fellow is closely mentored by a member of staff who provides day-to-day support, training, and professional direction. I serve as a program manager for the fellowship as well as a consultant and trainer on digital work and platforms.
The fellows are using the first several months at the museum to learn the trade and have already taken on key roles on projects such as virtual exhibition tours, electronic condition reporting for artworks, and collection expansion in new directions. We are so honored to have them with us for the next three years and look forward to new and exciting collaborations.