Museology Master of Arts Program

June 4, 2019

“Doing Work for the People that I Love” – Josephine Lee (Alumni Spotlight)

Josie Lee, Class of 2013

Josie Lee, Class of 2013

Josie Lee (Class of 2013) has her dream job. As Director of the new Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center (opening Summer 2019), Josie puts her Museology degree to use “doing work for the people that I love, utilizing culture, language, traditions, community, and environment all wrapped into one.”

In fact, Josie’s desire to serve her community is what initially inspired her to pursue a degree in Museology. She says, “when I started out, I had an idea that I would eventually go home to help work on the Museum for Ho-Chunk, but always assumed I would be an accessory to the project. I wanted to ensure my skill sets would allow me to function in multiple roles as the museum developed.”

The program’s holistic approach to museum work gave Josie an opportunity to learn about the multifaceted nature of museum work, who said she has applied what she learned from all of the classes she took in Museology. “The things in my job right now require me to be a little bit of every single position,” Josie explained. “I do the administration. I take care of volunteers, I do all the educational programming, all the collections care, all the fundraising. I wouldn’t be able to do any of that had it not been for the classes that were offered and that I was able to take.”

Josie Lee, Pop up museumDuring her graduate studies, Josie participated in an internship with the Hibulb Cultural Center, where she learned to think creatively about museum education and outreach. “Seeing the way they incorporated a lot of different tribal programs into their space was so incredibly eye-opening. To see that you didn’t have to use just your museum, but you could take the cultural aspects of it and bring it outside. And since I have not had a museum space for the last four years, I’ve really used that in order to gain momentum on the space that we have now.” Thinking back on that internship experience, Josie looks forward to having the new space and building upon existing programming to all tribal members.

Beyond these technical skills, Josie remembers talking about self-advocacy in a class taught by Associate Director Wilson O’Donnell which further equipped her with the necessary skills to successfully negotiate in her career. Josie recalls one substantial bump in the road that led to the opening of the Ho-Chunk Museum – finding a location. Thankfully, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, Josie was able to secure a new home for the museum. The ability to negotiate for herself and her museum made all the difference in the journey to open to Ho-Chunk Museum. “I ended up turning down a job recently with a fairly large museum because they weren’t willing to meet my requirements,” she confided, “which really worked out because on the opposite end, I was able to negotiate using that job opportunity for the work that I’m doing currently. It helped to establish the museum at Ho-Chunk as its own division with its own budget for the first time in three years.”

Josie Lee Photo 2Josie recognizes the impact that her work with and for the Ho-Chunk Museum has on her community. “Right now we are experiencing a ton of loss in terms of knowledge and knowledge keepers, and so the big thing is that our community has a place where they can hear our language, they can see our art, they can feel like they’re home, and with all of these pieces of what makes us Ho-Chunk. And so that doesn’t necessarily mean a brand new space. It means a place where they can feel comfortable sharing and learning and experiencing, so the work that I do oftentimes includes traditional arts and teaching those. We do a community show and tell so people can share stories, and it oftentimes spurs conversations around either the individual, the type of artwork they’re talking about or even seasonal things. It’s really neat to see the way that the conversation can jump, but it brings back that sense of community and healing.”

The Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center will open its doors in Tomah, WI this summer. Congratulations to Josie and others involved in the opening!