BA: Double Major in Human Geography and Visual Arts

Where did Aaron work?

Work Term 1:
Collections Assistant, Nikkei National Museum


What were Aaron’s main responsibilities?

Aaron’s work as a Collections Assistant allowed him to become an integral part of the archives team at the Nikkei National Museum. His main responsibilities were constructing the Gallery Exhibition, ‘NIKKEI’, assisting with VIP openings, cataloguing and maintaining pieces in the collection, and performing outreach duties at community events.

When constructing the Gallery exhibition, Aaron attended formal meetings to discuss what pieces would be included and how they would be displayed. As part of the archive team, he catalogued and carefully cleaned objects to prepare them for display, which included a rigorous process of sweeping dust from delicate fabrics and artefacts, writing condition reports on their restoration progress, and mounting framed works. Aaron particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the artists and people showcased in the exhibit during the VIP opening, whom toured their Archives unit and office.

As a member of the outreach team, organized donor relations and attended community events around the greater Vancouver Area to educate the community about exhibitions and events at the museum. His team was in charge of creating themed outreach posters that were each specified to the event they were attending, as each event was uniquely related to the Japanese Canadian community in BC. He reflected that is was a rewarding experience to engage with families who were new to the museum and listen to stories about people whom were influential to the Japanese-Canadian community.

 What did Aaron accomplish?

When Aaron began his work term, the museum was completing a period of renovations and he was tasked with moving the archival material into their new displays. Aaron was able to rehouse rare objects into a new vault space added to the museum, and document each item’s location into a database. This experience helped him prepare for the challenge of writing an article for the August edition of the Nikkei Museum’s publication, Nikkei Images. Aaron wrote a spotlight on the life and legacy of Japanese-Canadian equal rights activist, Tomekichi Homma. To collect research, Aaron spoke to the Homma family historian and learned of Tomekichi Homma’s fight for equal voting rights that would eventually allow minorities and people of colour to vote in provincial elections. Aaron was able to write a deeply moving article that inspired members of the Homma family to attend the Museum VIP opening and become frequent visitors.

How has Aaron’s experience shifted his perception of a career in museum curation?

Working with the Nikkei Museum allowed Aaron to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese Canadian history and the community struggle with racial inequalities they have overcome since immigrating in Canada. Aaron reflected; “listening to the stories of families or individuals has been truly humbling and speaking with them has helped to improve my public speaking skills.” Working as a Collections Assistant fuelled Aaron’s curiosity for pursuing a career in museum administration and curation. He gained skills in event planning, communication, and organization that he did not expect. He had the opportunity to perform tasks for other team members outside his job description, such as shadowing gallery directors and the event assistant, allowing him to better understand the many important roles necessary for maintaining a Museum.

How did co-op benefit Aaron’s future professional career?

Aaron believes that this co-op term has provided him with a stepping-stone to apply to future job positions, as employers can now see that he is capable of handling workload and responsibility.  The archival preservation techniques and database management he learned will be transferrable to other roles as Aaron continues to pursue a career path with museum work. In Aaron’s words; “I went into this job armed with a passion for learning and came out with knowledge on Japanese Canadian experiences in Canada, archival preservation and arrangement techniques and administrative duties.”  He was grateful to learn about hands-on preservation techniques for the first time and is excited to experiment with his own techniques as he steps into the professional world.