Curator Profile: The Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University
- L. Clark, Editor | Costume Society of America
- Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021
Sandra Staebell is the Registrar/Collections Curator at the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University. Her love of history led her to study Public History and Museum Studies in school, with a B.A. in History from the University of Northern Iowa and an M.A. in Museum Science from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. From there she moved to the Kentucky Museum in 1988 and has been there ever since.
She sees the textiles and costume collection of the museum as one of its biggest strengths, pointing out that the staff has been working directly with the University, specifically what was then called the Home Economics department, since the early 1980s. Today this partnership continues to be an integral part of operations at the museum. Staebell is currently working directly with an honors class to create an exhibit about 1960s Mod Style. Garments from the collection are also made available for instructors to use in class while the faculty of what is now the Interior Design and Fashion Merchandising Program helps curate and research costume exhibits.
For Sandra, there is no such thing as an average day. She further clarifies, “No disrespect to actual firefighters, but I sometimes say my business card should say 'firefighter.' I deal with whatever is the most pressing project.” Like many others, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in computer time and Zoom meetings for her. Dealing with the most pressing project means that at times she isn’t able to necessarily do the tasks that she feels are needed. She says that this is one of the hardest parts of her job: “Lack of staffing means that the time available to spend working with and researching artifacts, including the historic costume collection, is quite limited.”
Her biggest advice? “Become more of a big picture person. I tend to be a 'can’t see the forest for the trees' type of person. Focus on the big stuff. Think strategically. How can you advance the role of collections inside the museum and how can you help advance the profile of the museum across and outside of the university?”
The Kentucky Museum will be featured in a Dress & Drinks webinar on March 24, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Join Sandra and her colleagues, Dr. Carrie Cox and Nancy Richey, to discuss the collections at the Kentucky Museum, how the museum collaborates with Western Kentucky University, and their plans moving forward. Stay tuned for more information!