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).
Carissa- It’s so interesting how two people with the same job title can have such different functions! It really goes to show how diverse this industry, being committed to serving your mission and your audience. Likewise, what stood out to me during your interview was that Jessica Burger would keep newspaper and magazine ads to serve their target audience. Meanwhile, the Franklin Institute’s target audience is families with younger children whose parents are younger and use social media.
I’d be curious to know which audiences engaged the most with the George Washington Foundation’s social media channels? Are they attracting new audiences? Have they seen a shift in who has participated in tours and events over the past year?
Hey Carissa, what a great interview! I feel like Burger has so much experience in different areas of the field. It was so interesting to hear from a professional working on the digital side of museums who wears many hats. I mean with a title like “Manager of Marketing, Communication, and Technology how could you not!
One thing mentioned in the interview that I though was really interesting was that the museum started to start a blog during Covid-19. I think by the different departments have this platform, it would have allowed the audience to remain connected with the foundation digitally. It sounds like they will continue with the blog long after the pandemic is over!
Fantastic Interview, Carissa!
After listenting to a few interviews, I am pleasantly surprised at how many people have ‘wandered’ into museum field, bringing a wealth of information along! (I too worked in development from an Opera Company and Symphony on the west coast, and Jessica’s conversation about wearing multiple hats — and using equipment ‘until it broke’ brought back many memories! – I suppose that’s the modus operandi for non-profit arts organizations!)
With an interest in material culture studies, I loved her discussion about reconstructing the past from tiny fragments of materials – tracing an original rug manufacturing source in England from a small fiber remnant was amazing!
Jessica offered a full accounting of the many ‘hats’ she wears in her role as Manager of Marketing, Comunications and Technology for the George Washingtong Foundation, which is very informative form graduate students looking to move into an arts-related field, and her competencies and creativity was quite impressive!
(And…well-done-YOU for landing an internship during the interview!!)
While I don’t know much about her museum in particular, I do know a bit about working as a small staff. Prior to COVID started I was filling out the paperwork to work part-time at a museum where I would have been part of a staff of two. COVID ruined that opportunity because that museum now has a hiring freeze (County Government) until 2022. Her experience of needing to acquire new and updated A/V equipment seems to be the situation at most museums as funding for those items is usually pretty limited.
It seems as though her career path, while not a direct one, has been beneficial to her and her needs and her experience in Production Studies and Art Management seem to be helping her a great deal in her current position as she wears many hats.
Hi Carissa, I really enjoyed this interview, I think it proves how valuable each department can be for contributing to digital projects. As someone who runs social media for my organization, I sometimes don’t feel like I have the support of others which I think hinders our performance. One particular point I really thought was cool from the interview was that they have many team members doing the blog posts which really creates a greater sense of humanity behind the account, in my opinion and it helps people to feel like they’re truly hearing from an expert. I’m loving all the social media/digital outreach topics being covered in these interviews, it’s inspiring me for my own work.
I love #FridayFinds “Guess the Artifact”! I might use that at the museum where I volunteer. Aircraft parts and ephemera would really be fun for the airplane nerds. Also, we find the oddest things in our collection.
Though she’s a one-woman team for social media it sounds like she has a lot of support from the curator and a committee to provide regular content. As someone who has worn many, many hats at a small museum I know how valuable that is. Thank you for the interview, Carissa.
I love that Jessica came from a production studies background since storytelling is such a fundamental part of museum offerings. I enjoyed hearing her strategies on advertising and her thoughts on keeping up with technological equipment necessary to support marketing efforts.
Comments are closed.