Liz Murphy has wasted no time getting her career into the fast lane. Despite having graduated with her undergraduate degree just three years ago, she has already landed a job that would make many other professionals in her field envious.
In late 2009, Liz received word from another Southeast Missouri State University graduate that the National Churchill Museum, located on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., was looking for a part-time curator.
“I had just gotten back from graduate school and was, like any new grad, eager to work - even for free. I started part time in January 2010 and was hired full time in October,” she says.
“I always wanted to be Indiana Jones, but after two digs, one in the cold rain and the other in the hot sun, I decided against that. I fell in love with the analytical lab work and the interpretation of the objects. I wanted to take what Indy was finding and tell people all about it,” she explains.
Liz graduated from Southeast in May 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation and minors in art history and history.
In the summer of 2009, Liz received the opportunity to work at the Natural History Museum in London, which she says was a dream come true.
“I was working with the new audiences team, with asylum seekers and children of refugees, teaching them about beauty of the world around them. It was incredibly moving work. That team has done so much to help bridge the gap between traditional and non-traditional museum visitors. And the museum is world class; to this day it wins the ‘most aesthetically-pleasing museum to work in’ award in my eyes,” Liz says.
Liz says it’s hard to pinpoint just one aspect of her job that is a favorite.
“When I was an educator, it was reaching out to the public and showing them how rewarding the museum experience is. As a curator, taking care of objects which were part of great historical moments deepens my appreciation of museums even more. When I am allowed to speak with the public, I can truly share the entire museum experience with them. Also, as curator, I get to ‘play’ with those amazing pieces of history,” she says. “I have always had passion for what I do. I am a museum nerd, so what better than to get paid to follow your dream?”
Liz says the historic preservation program at Southeast was wonderful.
“As a senior graduating from the program, I entered job interviews having already processed an archival collection, written a national register nomination and done an official museum review. I was always supported by the professors,” she says.
In addition to her experience while she was completing her degree, being a historic preservation major has paid off in other ways for Liz. The fellow Southeast alum who made her aware of the opening at the National Churchill Museum had also been a historic preservation major.
“We (historic preservation majors) like to watch out for each other,” she says.
Liz’s favorite Southeast memories include playing soccer and hanging out with her “5th-floor girls” and going to London in 2004 for the first time, which inspired her to go back and get her master’s degree there.
She offered the following advice to future Southeast students.
“Take your time in your undergraduate studies. Experience it all and take classes because they sound interesting; remember, no other time in your life will you be this free to learn. Also, know that there are just some things you cannot plan; let life happen!”
In her spare time, Liz enjoys hiking and just being outdoors.
“I also enjoy reading, and yes, I do go to other museums for fun,” she says. “I’m also making a photo album of me in front of the world’s largest roadside attractions. I see them as great pieces of Americana!”
Looking to the future, Liz says she would love to live in Europe and work in a museum there. She also wants to drive the historic United States Route 66 with only a backpack, “perhaps in an old Volkswagen bus,” she says.
Liz currently resides in Jefferson City, Mo. She would like to invite any Southeast alumni in the mid-Missouri area to visit her at the Churchill Museum.
“It’s always nice to see another Southeast face!” she says.