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Behind the Access Doors: Curator of History and Exhibitions Manager

It was the fall of 2011 and Rebecca Bush had just finished her Master’s degree at the University of South Carolina the previous spring. Full of ideas and ready to start her new position at The Columbus Museum, Rebecca “started the Monday after Thanksgiving and [has] been here ever since.”

Rebecca Bush is the Curator of History and Exhibitions Manager at The Columbus Museum. Recently, I got a chance to talk with her about her life and times at TCM and how she has seen TCM change and grow in her tenure at the Museum.

Many people wonder what curators do and so I asked Rebecca to share the duties and responsibilities of her job with me. She said, “For exhibitions...I develop ideas for exhibits with other Museum staff members and community partners. I come up with topics and themes, conduct research, find objects and images to include in the exhibit, and write the text that goes on the walls, as well as any gallery guides or exhibition catalogs.”

She continues, “The other half of my job title is Exhibitions Manager…I oversee exhibition planning meetings, where curators pitch exhibit ideas to a group of Museum colleagues from all departments so the group can discuss the many different elements of planning an exhibition: research, shipping to get loaned items to the Museum, design and installation, marketing, educational programs, special member events, and funding to make all of the above happen.”

But when I asked Rebecca if she always wanted to be a curator she says, “I didn’t seriously become interested in museum work until my sophomore year of college at Kansas State University.” She continues, “I’d always enjoyed visiting museums.” It wasn’t until she started her graduate studies that Rebecca became interested in museum studies. She says, “[w]hen I began working on my master’s degree at the University of South Carolina, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a curator or instead become a museum educator to develop public programming. I quickly figured out, though, that I enjoyed diving into research much more than I enjoyed turning that research into interactive programs!”

But it worked out for the best because Rebecca has a long-standing love of history. She says, “My passion for history began when I was seven years old and stuck at home for two weeks with a bad case of the chickenpox. To distract me, my mom brought home armloads of books from the public library, including a couple of American Girl books that had been recommended by the children’s librarian. I fell in love with the series and its many historical worlds, each featuring young girls navigating extraordinary moments in American history.”

As for her interest in art, Rebecca says, “I’ve always appreciated visual art, but as someone who is not talented at creating it, its connection to my life always seemed a bit abstract and out of reach. That changed throughout the course of my early museum career and began to blossom once I arrived at TCM.”

Rebecca has worked on dozens of shows at TCM and so of course a few favorites come to mind. She tells me, “[a]n early favorite was Troublemakers and Trailblazers, which focused on people in the Chattahoochee Valley who had been considered somehow scandalous during their lifetimes but might be more admired now.”

Another of her favorites is more recent. “Right now I’m particularly excited about And So She Did: Women of the Chattahoochee Valley,” she says. Rebecca continues by saying that the show “contributes to national commemorations of the 19th Amendment and American women gaining the right to vote. It

was completed just before the Museum closed due to COVID-19, and I can’t wait for the public to see it once we reopen!”