Museum-ing with Dustin

Abe Vigoda as Pre-Columbian artifact

Image by dustin_wax via Flickr

Going on three months ago now, my life took a drastic turn (for the better!). After several years of struggling along as an adjunct professor and freelance writer (financially rewarding, creatively deadening…) I stumbled into a job as the registrar of the UNLV Barrick Museum. Having worked in museums before, done a fellowship at the Smithsonian as part of my dissertation research, and taken museum studies courses as electives in grad school, I clearly had hopes of one day working in a museum, but given the paucity of museums in Las Vegas I hadn’t thought that “one day” would come along so soon! Working at the Barrick puts me in charge of an amazing collection of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican artifacts (Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, Mixtec, basically anything that ends in “tec”) as well as quite a bit of material from throughout Central America, Mexico, and the American Southwest and Northwest. For readers unfamiliar with the terminology, the registrar of a museum is basically the collection manager — it is their job to track objects as they enter and leave the museum, as well as where they are at any given moment within the museum. Since this is a small university museum, my job also includes supervising student employees and managing the use of our facilities by outside groups, but basically I’m a registrar.

The role most people are familiar with in the museum world is the curator, the person who selects objects for the collection and organizes exhibitions. Though this is not technically part of my job, I’ve already been given the opportunity to curate a full show as well as a small add-on to a traveling exhibition curated outside the museum. The full show is called “Drawn in the Dust” and collects work by nine Las Vegas comic book artists; the smaller add-on is called “Frida Kahlo’s Mexicanidad” and is a selection of objects from our collection similar to the kinds of pre-Hispanic material that Frida collected and represented quite often in her work.

This has been a great opportunity for me, first of all because it has helped me learn what goes into putting an exhibition together (a LOT more than you’d think) but more importantly because I’ve been able to share some amazing work. I plan to be at the Barrick for a good long while, so hopefully I’ll have a lot more chances to share work from our collection and from the artists in our community.

2 comments to Museum-ing with Dustin

  • That’s great Dustin. I am glad that you have found a rewarding career. To a prosperous and happy future!

    The Fresno Art Museum also has one of the best Pre-Columbian collections I’ve seen, and I hear that they are soon to be bequeathed additional material.

  • That’s great Dustin. Didn’t realize this. My wife has a museum background. Got a MA in Art History and Museum studies. Worked at the Johnson Museum here at Cornell for a few years. Good for you!

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