Jumping Into The Summer

Meet Craig Neaves, this summer's University of Alberta Museums' Collections Assistant

What do you imagine when you think of a museum?

An old, dusty building? Large, quiet rooms that speak of the past?

Although this may still be the stereotypical mental image for many, since starting work at the University of Alberta Museums (UAM), I can see firsthand this is not the case. Instead, the 30 collections on our campus are dynamic environments filled with constant collaboration and creativity. They involve teams of highly skilled individuals who are passionate about creating exhibits, preserving objects and specimens, performing research, and engaging with the community both in-person and online. In fact, as I’ve quickly found out, there is so much going on it can get a little overwhelming.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Craig Neaves, and this summer I’ve been given the honour to work as a Collections Assistant with the University of Alberta Museums Unit (UAMU). I grew up in the small northern Alberta town of Athabasca, where we didn't have a museum at all, or even a McDonald's for that matter. Maybe it is for that reason that I cherish visiting a museum every time I get the chance, and have always loved connecting with the past through object-based learning. Since moving to Edmonton in 2021, I’ve been studying psychology in the Faculty of Arts at the U of A, which has piqued my interest in research and social phenomenon. To me, museum work is one of the best ways we can better understand the nature of humanity and the world we inhabit, which was why obtaining this position through the Arts Work Experience Program was a dream come true for me.

Although I’ve already learned a great deal since first diving in at the beginning of May, I still have many questions about museums. For example, what exactly is the role of students like myself within the U of A Museums? Furthermore, what is the importance not just of my own position, but of the UAM in general, and its necessity within our community? These are questions where the answers are useful not just for myself, but for a variety of people - whether you are a first-year student who doesn’t know what path to pursue yet, someone interested in a museum internship who wants to see behind the scenes, or a grad who simply feels like checking in on things. 

I know, it may seem like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. How could I ever go about fully answering these questions through a 4-month long summer job, amidst all the other exciting projects I’ll be working on? From art rehousing and inventories, to work in the Vascular Plant Herbarium and Ukrainian Folklore Archives, my summer is already stuffed to the brim with unique opportunities.

Well, it just so happens that I work in an office filled with people that are passionate and informed experts in their field. And lucky for me, that field happens to be museum work. Over the summer, I’ve decided to speak with a handful of UAMU staff in order to hear about their experiences, opinions, knowledge, and advice. Hopefully, these conversations will help guide me through my journey as a Collections Assistant, and allow me to better make sense of my experience.

And because I wouldn't want to be selfish, I’ll be sharing these conversations on my blog throughout the summer, so that you can learn from them and enjoy them just as I do. So if you’d like to learn more about the UAM, want to get involved yourself, or just like a good interview, I hope you’ll come and join me again.