Jennifer Noffze graduated from Ball State University in 2000, earning a BA in History and Political Science. In 2016, Jennifer completed her MA in museum studies at John Hopkins University. Her experience includes being the Collections Department Assistant (2001-2002), Registrar/Archivist (2002-2015), and Collections Manager (2016-Present), all through the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
What got you interested in the humanities?
I have always been interested in the humanities-during my K-12 years I always did best in history, English, literature and art as compared to the STEM fields. When I first started college, my majors were Political Science and Spanish. I ended up with a double major in Political Science and History with a Spanish minor. I traveled frequently with my parents and grandparents, and I always LOVED visiting museums and historic sites.
What was your career path after earning your bachelors? How did it change after earning your masters?
One year after graduating with my BA, I landed a job in the museum field working as the Collections Department Assistant at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I spent one year in that position before I was promoted to Registrar/Archivist. I had always wanted to get an MA, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted History or an MLS, so I waited 14 years (!!) to get my MA. I decided upon a Museum Studies degree from Johns Hopkins University. As soon as I finished my degree, I was promoted to Collections Manager.
What are the most valuable skills you learned in your major?
The most valuable skills I learned as a History student were critical thinking skills. Reading a variety of perspectives and synthesizing and critically reviewing materials has been invaluable. I believe this has also served me well in my personal life. With the prominence of social media and a variety of ways to get our news, it’s imperative to examine what we read/hear and try to root out the “truth” as hard as that may seem to be.
What does a typical week in your position look like?
One of the best aspects of my job is that I get paid to learn-whenever there is a new object coming into the collection or a new exhibit, I’m able to apply my research skills and dig in. Currently, I’m working from home on Mondays and Fridays, and I typically reserve these days for database cleanup, webinars and reading. When I’m onsite, I’m working on the inventory of our toy train and natural science collection. Depending on the exhibit schedule, I will sometimes condition report new loans or arrange for shipping and returns. I work with interns and volunteers remotely — they are helping me with database cleanup and artifact research. I’m also working on a storage rehousing grant and in the midst of applying for a NAGPRA documentation grant.
What is most challenging about being collections manager at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?
The most challenging aspect of my job is not feeling as if there is enough time! We are a very fast-paced institution, so sometimes I feel like there are projects that don’t get the focus or attention they need.
What is most rewarding about being collections manager at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?
Most rewarding is what I touched on before-I get paid to learn! I love being able to put my History degree to use and I always tell interns that you can find a job with a liberal arts degree. I enjoy working with people who share the passion for sharing history through our material culture and stories. In our department of 15 people, everyone has a liberal arts background. We have History, Anthropology, Classics and Art History majors in our department.
Looking back to your time as an undergraduate, could you have predicted where you are today?
Looking back, I would be really proud of where I am. I had no doubt that I would find a job in the museum field. For it to be a museum I loved as a child, well, that’s just icing on the cake!
What advice would you give to other humanities students?
My advice to other humanities students–you can do it! We need individuals who want to share stories of struggle and triumph. Our stories are vitally important. Thank you for choosing humanities. Don’t limit yourself — the world needs people who understand the importance of anthropology and history.
You can connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.
Read more CSH Alumni stories on our Cardinal Directions page.