A while back, when we first started this blog, I promised to offer a meet the staff feature from time to time. This post will be the first such entry. It is our hope that the meet the staff feature will be a way for the community to get to know our staff and the hard work that they do.
Name & Job Title: Mike Rowland, Curator
Where are you originally from/What do you consider your hometown: My dad was in the Navy and we moved around a lot, but I went to high school in Williamsburg, Virginia, so I guess I call that my hometown.
Tell us a little about your educational background: I thought I wanted to be a high school history teacher but I got into the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps as a junior at Brigham Young University. After graduating in 1996 with a bachelor’s in humanities, I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force. I served on active duty for six years as an aircraft and munitions maintenance officer and that was an important period of personal and professional development. During that time, I researched careers in museums and did some volunteer work. I separated from the Air Force in 2002 and went to the University of Florida. I graduated in 2004 with a master’s degree in museum studies.
What sorts of hobbies do you enjoy or what do you do in your free time: I have five children so I don’t have a lot of free time. I wouldn’t trade it though—I love my wife and kids. I’m heavily involved with my church. I like to do craft and science projects with my kids and I’ve dabbled with building wooden toys. I’m the oldest of six kids and I put together a family newsletter 2-3 times a year to help us stay connected.
How long have you worked at the museum: I started at the museum in August 2004 as the archivist. I became curator in June 2008.
What does your job entail: I’m responsible for the museum’s collection of historic objects (“artifacts”) and archival materials such as documents and photographs. I also do research and write exhibit storylines. From my perspective, my job is to collect and preserve historic materials and stories for future generations while using those materials and stories to make a positive difference in people’s lives right now.
If you were not working here at the museum, what kind of job would you like to have: I like to think that if I wasn’t working here at the Museum of Aviation, I’d be at another museum. Museum work fits my personality, training, and experience and allows me to be creative and serve the community. If I wasn’t a museum professional, I’d probably still be on active duty in the Air Force.
How does being a museum employee change your experience when you visit other museums? I look a lot more at the technical details of how the exhibits are organized and put together. I’m always looking for good ideas we might be able to apply and ineffective applications we should avoid. I do try hard though to keep the perspective of a “regular” visitor.
What is your favorite aircraft or exhibit at the museum and why: My favorite aircraft at the museum is the one I’m most focused on at any particular time. Right now it’s the MH-53M Pave Low IV tail number 70-1626. We’re developing an exhibit about it and the people who flew and maintained it. It is a beast of an aircraft with an amazing history. It came into service with the Air Force in 1971 only a few months before I was born. It retired two years ago around the time I became curator. The Pave Low veterans are passionate about the history and it’s been great to get to know some of them and hear their stories.
Thanks for reading our first meet the staff feature, I hope you enjoyed it. if there are certain questions you would like to hear our staff members answer, just let me know.