Hannah Gaston, a student pursuing her M.A in Museum Professions, a graduate program within the College of Communication and Arts, was recently awarded the inaugural May Kean Raynolds Museum Studies Graduate Fellowship at Liberty Hall Museum. Gaston, a Museum Education student, is completing her second year in the program and is set to graduate in May.
The May Kean Raynolds Museum Studies Graduate Fellowship is a paid professional development fellowship at Liberty Hall Museum, a historic house and garden museum built by William Livingston, the first elected governor of New Jersey. This Fellowship is awarded to students who are in a Museum Studies or related program, aiming to earn experience working in the field. Dedicated to the late May Kean Raynolds, the last woman to grow up at Liberty Hall, Gaston is the first recipient of the Fellowship which will now be an annual award. The fellowship is awarded for a 30-week period, beginning in September and ending the following year in May.
At Liberty Hall Museum, Gaston assists with education and outreach programs. Her primary project involves reviving the museum's outreach programs into more viable multimedia programs that can be taken on the road. To develop these programs, Gaston conducts research about the museum's past exhibits, redesigns them as visual presentations and travels around New Jersey with a collection of touch objects, telling the story of Liberty Hall.
Gaston shared that her favorite newly developed outreach program, "Ring for Service," focuses on the servants who worked at Liberty Hall. "The program allows the audience to experience 'a day in the life' of a servant at Liberty Hall in 1900," Gaston shared. "I use period clothing, various objects from our touch collections, and vignettes from the past exhibit to tell the fascinating, behind-the-scenes story of these people. Most visitors do not think about the servants who worked at Liberty Hall, so I think it is even more important that I make the story exciting and also relatable."
She credits the Museum Professions program for equipping her with the knowledge and skills she needs to succeed in her Fellowship. "My core Museum Education classes help me succeed in this position," Gaston said. "In these classes, we discussed representing and working with several cultures and, multiple time periods, and how it is important to preserve the historical integrity of people’s stories."
Gaston currently serves as the graduate assistant within the College of Communication and the Art, where she assists with the Museum Professions program, managing the Institute of Museum Ethics' blog, writing engagement materials and crafting the program's digital newsletter, Musings. Her career goal is to work as a director of museum education where she will have the opportunity to write and develop programs, work with school groups, plan community events, and train volunteers and docents. She shared her advice for students looking for paid internships or fellowships. "During your time at Seton Hall, try to complete as many internships, externships or fellowships as possible because experience is valuable when you step into the job market."
The M.A in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.