Working History: Michelle Foggett
Employer: Archives of Ontario
Job Title: Senior Coordinator, Educational Programming
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Years in the field: 7
What are the regular tasks for your job?
My job is not routine and every day I am learning and doing something different. I love that!
My role is to set the strategic direction for education at the Archives of Ontario and deliver learning opportunities that meet the needs and expectations of Ontario students and teachers. Essentially, I work as the conduit to get the vast collections of the Archives of Ontario into the hands of Ontario students.
I am actively involved in delivering educational programs in our new learning centre, developing new programs, and working with internal and external partners to ensure that educational programming at the Archives of Ontario is accessible and meets the needs of Ontario students.
What is the best part of your job?
It’s really rewarding when students are excited to put on some white gloves and handle the collections. Even students who thought a trip to the Archives was going to be boring are excited when the gloves come out and they get to see and handle ‘the real thing’.
My hope is that some of the students will go on to be future champions and advocates of the Archives and our collections because they have had this personal experience.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
One of the most difficult parts of my job is making choices! The possibilities for topics and learning programs we can develop are endless. There are so many wonderful stories to tell! I have to make some tough choices about what we are going to cover and what will have to wait.
How did you get interested in history?
I had a number of experiences throughout my life that inspired me to pursue a career in history. I went to England when I was six years old and I was completely fascinated by all the ‘old stuff’. I just loved history and peoples’ stories and I decided to study history at university. I stumbled on the idea of pursing a post-graduate degree in museum studies as I thought I really wanted to work with historical collections.
While completing my postgraduate studies in museum studies, I was inspired to work in heritage and education by Dr. Richard Sandell and Dr. Viv Golding. They taught me that our history is much more than what ends up in a textbook or a museum wall – and I wanted to find and highlight those underrepresented histories and tell students about them.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in a similar job?
I would recommend that anyone interested in a career in the heritage field consider volunteering and working with a mentor. That early investment of time and energy is crucial in researching and identifying not only a suitable career field, but the best area of that field for you. I discovered early on that I loved working in the heritage field, but I was not gifted with skills in cataloguing, archiving, or photographing collections! But I did have skills in communication and a passion for making collections accessible to learners.
Dedicating time to learning is another important aspect of career development – and it never stops I hope! I completed an Honours B.A. in History and an M.A. in Museum Studies. Because of the support and mentorship I received, I have had the opportunity to learn and work at some of the world’s best heritage organizations, including the National Archives of England and Wales and the Science Museum of London, England. I have had the opportunity to actually work in the cool places that inspired me when I was six years old.
The Archives of Ontario - and archives and museums around our country - belong to all of us. So get involved! It’s your history, so if you are interested, why not volunteer and find out if this is something you want to do when you graduate?