Nicole O’Dowd credits her accent to having spent the first ten years of her life in North America. It’s also where she thinks her love of museums came from.
“Mum always took us to museums wherever we travelled,” she says. “There was always an element of what are we going to see at this new and exciting museum.”
This passion rose to the top after Nicole finished her undergraduate degree and was puzzling over what to do next. She made a long list of everything she had enjoyed doing over the past few years, and her time in London during which she visited many museums stood out.
After coming to Open Day at ANU and learning about the Master of Museum and Heritage Studies, her mind was made up.
The practical side sold me, she confirms. “I didn’t want to do another whole degree of theory.”
Early in her Masters, Nicole undertook an internship at the Museum of Old Democracy (MoAD) – or Old Parliament House, as it’s colloquially known.
She spent the first half of the internship with the contents team, conducting accessioning (the process of receiving items into a museum’s collection) and room staging.
“If you go into the museum, you can go into the old PM’s office,” Nicole began.
“I helped stage the suite of offices that lead to his. So, making it look like everyone had just stepped out to lunch, in 1980-something.”
The second half of her internship was spent with the heritage team, making an internal resource on a space in the building called the Housekeeper’s Flat.
“It’s the kind of work I like doing – solving a problem and organising things,” she says.
Nicole describes her internship as having been a good experience. She was exposed to areas outside of those she was working directly in, and introduced to other people within MoAD.
“You can’t really know what a role involves until you actually do the job and give it a go,” she says. “So I felt glad that I was able to do it at an early point in my degree.”
Her internship also helped Nicole to land her current, diverse role with MoAD, alongside studying part-time. She’s a casual working across three different teams.
“I possibly would’ve gotten the first job, as a museum experience officer, without it,” Nicole says, “but I wouldn’t necessarily have had the other opportunities I’ve had without the internship and really gotten to know a lot of the people.”
Working at MoAD has also helped Nicole to better understand what she enjoys doing within a museum environment. One area that has really appealed to her is heritage management and interpretation.
“When we think about storytelling, we think about books, movies, TV shows. But podcasts, graphic novels and museums find interesting ways to do that too,” she explains.
“Interpretation can be anything from the panels you put on the wall, the objects you choose to show or features you want to highlight. It depends on what institution you’re working for or what your goal is.”
Museums can come across as quite dry. The exhibits that stand out to Nicole are those that “make you feel something”.
“You have to be creative in telling your story rather than just imparting facts. I think that’s the direction museums seem to be going in now.”
Nicole is hoping to complete her Master of Museum and Heritage Studies in 2019.