To Be or Not to Be an EMP?
What’s the real question?
To be an EMP (Emerging Museum Professional) is to be dedicated to a cause, an idea, a lifetime of commitment. While this statement may seem dramatic, it is often the choices we make early in life that shape the rest of our career. I stand in the present moment a college student searching for my next area of study, which brings me to the question, to be or not to be an EMP?
For someone in the field of Art History, such as myself, the options focus around two major life decisions: stay comfortably safe in the arms of Academia or venture out into, what so many students call,” the real world.” Museums, however, offer the appealing balance between Academia and reality. For example, curators and their teams bring their theories and ideas to the table and then to life. They experience the satisfaction of creating something tangible, something everyone, no matter how well-read they are, can understand.
So really the question is: where is the line, the balance, between being Academic and being, “in the real world?” If I pursue an advanced academic degree, will I even refer to it in real world application? On this matter, I have heard all kinds of advice— “A PHD will always get you further than a MA;” “an MBA can take you anywhere you want to go;” “Life is too short to spend in school.”
But do the EMP’s who hold the alphabet soup of MBA’s, PHD’s, and MA’s have the answer to the question, “where is the balance between what I think and what I do that will make me the most satisfied?” I have worked in a gallery, critiqued art, tutored students in Art History, organized art exhibitions, and am currently working for SEMC. My answer to the question of Academia versus “real world,” theory versus application, is to do, create, initiate. While the opportunities provided by organizations, such as SEMC, for EMP’s are infinitely helpful in getting careers off the ground, the “E” in EMP is the most important letter. Education instills thinking, but in order to find balance, students need to seek opportunities with their local museums, art organizations, and art programs at their schools. The question is no longer “what can I be;” it is “what can I do?”