Museum director provides students with career advice
Shippensburg University’s “Diggin’ History” lecture series began Wednesday evening with “Honor, Service, Legacy — The Pennsylvania Military Museum,” presented by SU alumnus and Pennsylvania Military Museum Director Tyler Gum.
After graduating with his master’s degree in applied history in 2011, Gum worked for the National Park Service before entering the private sector. He then joined the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission (PHMC) and became the Military Museum director.
“[This presentation is] what I wish someone in my position giving a presentation had told me sitting where you are about the job application process: my background and experience – the good, the bad, and the ugly — and then some of the answers that sometimes you don’t get on your standard job websites,” Gum said.
Pennsylvania has the second largest historical preservation organization in terms of the collection’s volume, only falling short of the Smithsonian Institution. The PHMC is involved with preserving 26 historical and cultural sites, 13 directly and the rest through partnerships with local groups. The PHMC also preserves the legislative archives for the state government.
The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg had more than 138,000 visitors in the 2015–16 season and made nearly $567,000. Much of the labor comes from the nonprofit organization Friends of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, because there are only four paid state workers on the museum’s staff.
“‘Everybody fills sandbags,’” Gum said. “There is no work that’s beneath you and no work that is above you. Always aspire, but stay humble where you are. Whenever a trash bag needs changed, change the trash bag.”
Gum applied for 280 jobs after graduating from SU. He recommended going to every event to network, he said. When applying to a job, send in a physical copy along with the electronic application, and follow up multiple times.
“[Make sure] they know you by first name because you have annoyed the heck out of them because you’ve made sure they know who you are,” Gum said.
He also said never to say no to anything and never quit no matter how difficult because it is the job you never take that will lead to where you want to go.
“My wife lived in Fairfax County School District, I lived two hours away,” Gum said. “We saw each other on weekends. And I’ve had the fortune or misfortune to experience that, because that will make you harder. That will make you be able to get through things your friends and colleagues can’t.”