Ask a Public Historian: Ryan Blocker

Ryan Blocker is currently Collections Curator of Historic Textiles at the Alabama Department of Archives & History, The Museum of Alabama.  She has been in the field for 20 years and this position since 2010.  Ryan has a degree in history from AUM and certification in Collections Management from The International Preservation Studies Center, which provides training for museum, archives, conservation and historic preservation professionals.

Why did you choose to enter your field?

The love of textiles brought me to the field of museum education. Here I can combine my love of costumes and an affinity with textile collections.  I love to educate the public about textiles and the world and how clothing is put together.  I work with not only textiles, but with shoes, jewelry, and paintings as they pertain to the textiles.  The textile collections are scattered throughout the museum exhibits.  I also collect historic photographs of the mid- 19th century to augment my knowledge and passion for textiles.

If someone wanted to be ‘you’, what advice do you have?

Get your foot in the door.  Volunteer in museums and work with curators.  Keep learning!  Every institution deals differently in conservation and preservation techniques.  I volunteered while I was a student in 1993 for museum education and ended up learning the valuable skill of how to catalog artifacts for the museum.

What would you have done differently in the preparation for your career?

I would have focused my education on textile history and done more research into colleges that offered degrees in textile history.

What advice would you give current public history students?

Ask questions from people in the field.  Research what is out there.  Work with collections, whenever you can.  Learn how to catalog collections.  However, the most important point is to get your foot in the door!

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