Nearly One Year In; How The New Museum Director Has Gone In New Directions
Imagine stepping into a role that had been filled for 30 years by the previous occupant. Where would you start? How would you make your mark? For Sarah Rogers, director of the Kent State University Museum, this was the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime.
“It is all about trying things,” said Ms. Rogers. “It is about thinking of things to do that, five years ago, no one would have gone to a museum for.”
Ms. Rogers was appointed as the director of the Kent State University Museum in June of 2018, and said it was a rare opportunity after replacing the retiring director after 30 years.
Since taking over as director, Ms. Rogers has been trying to meet as many people as she can. She has been getting to know students, faculty, staff and visitors while listening to their thoughts.
“I’m focused on learning about how they’ve used the museum in the past or not and who we might work with going forward,” said Ms. Rogers.
To do that, Ms. Rogers has been reaching out to organizations with which the museum does not currently have a relationship.
“We really have not had a strong connection with the LGBTQ Student Center,” said Ms. Rogers. “I went over and met with Ken, the director of the center, and he brought his staff and students over to talk about a lot of different ideas.”
Along with the LGTBQ Student Center, Ms. Rogers is working with the leadership in the Student Multicultural Center and the Women’s Center to create more connections and opportunities. The museum will now be a stop on campus tours for members of KUPITA/TRANSICIONES, a four-day cultural orientation and year-long mentoring program, and the LGBTQ Plus Center is hosting their Queer Voices Showcase at the museum.
To figure out what people want and the best practices to use going forward, Ms. Rogers has connected with professors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) with such classes as Public Relations Case Studies and Research Measurement in Advertising and Public Relations.
“The Case Studies class did a project around outreach and assessing where we are. A couple of the outcomes were the need to do some more evaluation and study,” said Ms. Rogers. “So this semester we have a terrific group, and they are going to do a series of online surveys and focus groups for us related to that. This is information that we will use as we go forward and try to expand.”
One of Ms. Rogers’ goals is to get people to think of the museum as open and relevant, not stuffy and closed. Having mediation for students and faculty at the museum is one way she does that.
Eventually, Ms. Rogers said she wants to do activities such as yoga at the museum that is open to the public.
To better reach the public and create more interest, the museum is starting a membership program. Ms. Rogers said they have always had people support the museum, but not in a structured way. It also helps the museum get a little more support which will allow it to do more things.
The museum is continuing to do speaker series on occasional Fridays and Saturdays. The talks consist of behind-the-scenes discussions with designers and showcasing local work.
The museum’s permanent timeline exhibit is getting an update as well. The timeline currently shows the silhouettes through the decades ending in 1950. The exhibit is now being extended into the 2000s. The glass exhibit that took up the space where the timeline will go has been moved into the hallway with more lighting.
What the Museum has to offer is very unique compared to its counterparts. “The collection is unlike many others,” said Ms. Rogers.
Museums, art and curating have always been her passion.
“I am really a museum brat,” said Ms. Rogers. “The whole experience is fun.” She enjoys getting to know people and try different options. “I am a firm believer in trying things more than once,” Ms. Rogers said.
The Kent State Museum is open Tues. and Wed. from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sun. Noon – 4 p.m.
For more information on the Kent State Museum visit https://www.kent.edu/museum.