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Burn Out

Honestly, I don't know where 2021 went. Bustle started off strong in January and February, and I had so many plans in the direction I wanted the company to go. Unfortunately, my full-time job as a museum curator for the Historical Society of Western Virginia took over my life, and has continued to be a bit of a bear throughout the summer and fall of this year.

In my day job, I'm a curator for the Historical Society of Western Virginia. I've been with them in different capacities since 2013, and it has given me a lot of opportunities to expand my area of interests, focus on Roanoke's history, as well as, to put it bluntly, learn all aspects of museum professions and excel at them. Once out of graduate school, I never thought I would have to do marketing, grant writing, project management, or public speaking. Nor did I think I would ever have to construct and paint walls, design and then hang exhibitions, or create shoestring budget mounts while maintaining not only the integrity of the exhibit, but of the preservation concerns of the objects as well. While I'm extremely thankful for the opportunities to learn (all of the above, and then some) a variety of tasks, it's also extremely frustrating to not be able to have someone on staff with which to consult. In big museums, there's a very distinct line between what's part of your job, and what's someone else's. In a small museum, I wear many hats: I'm exhibit designer, registrar, collections manager, preventive conservationist, preparator, art handler and installer, object photographer, grant writer, marketing executive, project manager, educator, and front desk attendant. In other words, working in a small non-profit often means you have to figure out how to do it yourself, or don't do it at all. This has especially been the case after Covid.

Luckily for the Historical Society, the museum received substantial funding in 2019 to create a 250th anniversary exhibit for Botetourt County through the Bank of Botetourt, and we were able to carry on with our plans, albeit a year later. In April of 2021, I opened the exhibit Botetourt County: 250+1 Years of Delights, or Botetourt's History through the Decorative Arts. As a one woman show, everything regarding the exhibit design, gallery prep, incoming loan agreements and condition reporting, install, and interpretation fell to me. I love my job and everything I get to do with it, but the scope of this exhibit taxed me to the extreme.

In early January, just after the holidays, I had scheduled three separate moves from all over the state of Virginia to bring in over 350 objects from outside collectors and museums. I then worked normal weeks up until mid-February, when I started to panic. The exhibit was supposed to open in March. I began working late, as well as Saturdays and Sundays. Two full months of this left me burnt out, but the exhibit opened on time. Because of Covid concerns, our official opening didn't occur until early October, and even then it was a stilted (but fancy) affair, but by no fault of ours (thanks USPS).

I still fully haven't recovered from this burn-out, as I've been working to get a catalog written (again photographs, text, and layout all done by me), as well as run grant-funded programming through to the end of the exhibit. These again have left me working late nights and weekend hours, as deadlines (and the end of the exhibit) are fast approaching.

Needless to say, bustle has taken a backseat, but I hope to remedy that by unveiling a few new things to the site soon. Not only will I be writing again on all things concerning historic dress (yay!), but I plan to do more with an online collections database, and hope to unveil a store with all sorts of vintage clothes, accessories, books, and other odds and ends. The Historical Society has gotten in a number of new historic costume gifts in 2021, and I've been having fun mounting, photographing, and doing bits of research (when I can), so there will be plenty coming up on that front, too. I do hope to restart my YouTube channel, too - I had my second episode halfway edited in February when things got crazy, and I gave up trying to finish it. I hope you'll stick with me as I work out all the kinks!

P.S. I had a different tactic for this blog post, but I got carried away on why I was burnt out (sorry!) But the post I had initially planned to write will hopefully be out next week. Stay tuned!

P.S.S - all the photos in this post are from the Historical Society of Western Virginia's Botetourt County: 250+1 Years of Delight exhibition, closing November 2, 2021.

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