Miss Jessica Burger took a “circuitous route” to her current position as Manager of Marketing, Communication, and Technology at the George Washington Foundation (Historic Kenmore Plantation and George Washington’s Ferry Farm) and ultimately a career in museums. She initially earned a bachelor’s degree in Production studies in the performing arts, focusing on theatre. She continued her education by earning a master’s degree in Arts Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated in 2008 amid a financial recession and eventually found a position in regional theatre fundraising as an annual funds manager in San Diego, California. While she enjoyed her work in San Diego, she became increasingly interested in returning to her hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a city rich with history and, of course, family. The position she currently holds became available at the most opportune time, and she returned home. Although she did not major in history in school, she always had a keen interest in it and was compelled to explore possibilities that a career in a museum had to offer. She notes that she is thrilled to incorporate her knowledge of the theatre at Kenmore Plantation, where they do an annual Shakespeare on the Lawn event during the summer months. She also uses her artistic vision for graphic design tasks in her marketing duties.
As is the case with many not-for-profit organizations like museum foundations, she finds herself wearing many hats daily. She is a small and mighty team of one and notes that she would love to expand the team with a few more members if the budget allowed. She does all of the social media posting and scheduling and has honed a strategic posting schedule based on the events surrounding their resources. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have implemented a monthly blog and social media strategy meeting where the curatorial, archaeological, and support staff can assist Miss Burger with imagery and ideas for social media and blog posts. The team also helps by submitting blog posts themselves, alleviating some of the work from herself. There is a healthy YouTube presence filled with videos of varying durations. These videos chronicle the reconstruction of George Washington’s Ferry Farm, archaeological discoveries, and all things related to the 18th century.
The biggest struggle that she faces during the pandemic is finding new and exciting ways to keep visitors engaged. Like many museums and historic houses, they have had to pivot to digital engagement-centric tactics but were relieved to have only been closed between March and July. When the governor allowed visitors back in their facilities, tour numbers, based on the CDC guidelines, were not that much smaller than they usually allow. In this enhanced digital age, she would like to purchase new photo and video production equipment to produce the highest quality content possible. Struggles and fails are not always a bad thing; as she pointed out, what we have been learning all along, that you can learn from failures just as much as successes.
As Miss Burger gains more experience at her position, she is most surprised to have learned that, unlike accounting, for example, there are many ways to do this job. The museum field is ever-changing, and she is excited to continue the journey (perhaps maybe with a bit of help from some up-and-coming museum professionals).