Name: Kim Shipp
Employer: Association of Heritage Industries (AHI), Newfoundland and Labrador
Job Title: Executive Director
What are the regular tasks for your job?
In a nutshell, AHI is an umbrella organization for all the provincial umbrella organizations and as the only employee I get to do a bit of everything. This means I’m sometimes in my office, sometimes on the road, and most often meeting with people in the community. I also do a fair bit of research and report writing.
We tackle issues important to the cultural sector by working with members across the province so much of my time is focused on surveying members, hosting roundtable discussions, sitting on advisory committees, and connecting with similar organizations provincially and nationally. Advocating on the sector’s behalf to multiple levels of governments is a very important function of AHI and my role as Executive Director.
AHI also manages a variety of projects that allows me to get into the field, get into museums and work with a host of people engaged in the collection, preservation and interpretation of heritage.
What is the best part of your job?
I love collaboration, bringing people together, and forming partnerships and this job satisfies all three. I also appreciate the variety in the work I do – it keeps things interesting and challenging.
As relatively new to both the position and the province, the best part has been meeting my heritage colleagues all across the province (not to mention seeing some amazing museums and historic sites). One of the job’s highlights to date was a recent trip to Hopedale in Labrador to take part in the 2nd annual Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum; a truly amazing experience.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Like most non-profit organizations, tough decisions have to be made regularly to match the financial realities. Working for an organization with a very small budget and little in the way of sustainable funding is a constant challenge.
I also find working on my own can be a challenge, though not as much as I had expected. I’m used to a busy, creative (and loud) workplace where ideas can be bounced around and discussed and support can be sought. I find being alone in my quiet office is sometimes disorientating. That said, I find myself surprised by how much I like it.
How did you get interested in history?
Thanks to my parents, museum visits were a regular part of my childhood and surely informed my love of the past. My strongest memory is of visiting the King Tut exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum when I was nine – it left me speechless.
One day in my early twenties and friend and I were discussing potential careers. He said that since I was always dragging everyone to museums and galleries perhaps I should switch gears and take history. I did just that and never looked back! My favorite memory is my daughter’s first visit to a museum on a family holiday when she was 1 years old. A then somewhat seasoned museum professional, I thought I knew how best to engage with exhibits and get the most of a visit – boy did she teach me I was wrong. I learned to see museums and programming in a whole new way and still delight to watch as she, now 8 years old, explores. She is a constant reminder of why preserving and presenting history is important as is the vital role programming plays, connecting us to the objects and stories of the past.
What advice would you give to student’s who are interested in a similar job?
The best advice I received was – volunteer! Try it out. Volunteering in my last two years of university helped informed what next steps to take to make a go of it as a museum professional. I asked questions of those already in the field, found what they had done to get to where they were and what they looked for in potential employees. I took their advice to heart and continued my volunteerism and education to match my career goals. I was lucky enough to have a few mentors along the way – if you can, find one. The guidance, advice, and skills they have to pass are irreplaceable.
If there is anything else to add, it would be to take a business or accounting course. I started my university career as a business student – those early courses in financial management and accounting have proved invaluable. Managers of small sites and organizations have to know how to create and manage budgets and read financial statements.