Museology Master of Arts Program

November 21, 2019

Taking Technology to New Heights – Peder Nelson (Alumni Spotlight)

Earlier this quarter, students in the Museology Program’s Museums & Technology course had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Flight to get a firsthand look at the exciting work being done there with virtual and augmented reality.  The person taking the lead on that work is none other than program alumnus Peder Nelson (Class of 2012). We followed up with Peder about his work and how his experiences in the Museology Program have shaped his career.

Peder’s combination of interests converged in museums. “I have always had a passion for sharing history,” he said, “and I began volunteering for museums in my spare time, which led me to helping to create a public program video series for MOHAI that combined my love for sharing untold history with filmmaking and local music.” This experience helped him realize he may want to turn this into a career, and he applied to the Museology Graduate Program on the advice of his mentor, Helen Divjak, former Manager of Programs and Community Engagement at MOHAI.

In the Museology Program, Peder set about taking every opportunity he could to build his skillset.  He earned a certificate in audience research. He traveled for summer internships. He pursued coursework in exhibit development. As a student in the Museology program, Peder said the connections he made gave him insight into what he wanted in a career in the museum field. “Attending guest talks with museum professionals and hearing their stories of being career museologists inspired me set my sights higher than the direction I was originally looking at the beginning of the program,” he explained.  “The Museology Program provided an opportunity to connect with museum professionals and have hands-on experiences at multiple museums throughout Seattle. Leaving the program, I felt prepared with an understanding and knowledge of multiple aspects of museum work, which allows me to connect with professionals across departments and other institutions.”

As a student, Peder got involved with the Exhibits Department at the Museum of Flight, working on video development for an exhibit in the museum’s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. After graduating, he continued at the Museum of Flight as an Exhibit Developer, and in 2017 was given the additional title of Digital Engagement Manager for his work in VR/AR programming and interactive touchscreen development. 

Peder has worked on many exhibits at the Museum of Flight, but he said he was especially proud of being the lead Exhibit Developer on the Vietnam Divided: War Above Southeast Asia permanent exhibit, which he noted “provides a space for people to tell their stories and converse on a difficult topic, intergenerationally and through multiple perspectives.”

Some of his most recent projects include digital models of both the Apollo 11 capsule and the International Space Station, which museum visitors can explore through the use of virtual reality headsets. He is particularly excited about these projects because they represent “mission driven experimentation with new technology,” an area he is particularly interested in exploring.

Alongside his job, Peder continues to volunteer with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, and served on their board of trustees. He created a music history exhibit called Sound Spots: Music of the Duwamish Peninsula at the organization’s Log House Museum, which earned him the honorary title of Adjunct Curator of Music History. “I enjoy the work I do at the museum, since it allows me to be creative and to experiment in new approaches for interpreting and sharing history,” he told us.

While Peder may not have foreseen where he was going to land in his career after graduating from the Museology Graduate Program, he was excited about the doors that the program opened up, allowing him to explore his options for the future. “The greatest benefits [to the Museology program] are the range of cross-museum field courses and experiences that the program provides access to outside of the UW,” Peder declared. “The connections I made with people across the field and around the world opened up amazing opportunities, and continue to support the path of my career.” His parting piece of advice was for current students in the program: “Try to be flexible with your focus coming in, take advantage of access to the wide range of museum topics available. Your museum career won’t be a predictable path, there are many venues for applying your passion and interest in the field.”

Michael Lowry Lamble, Museology Communications Assistant