BY: MADELINE SMOLARZ
COLUMN: ON THE JOB WITH…
I knew this column would be a challenge because each day is different for me in my role as full-time Operations Coordinator at Ruthven Park National Historic Site. In addition to my usual duties, a number of unexpected things always seem to crop up – as they do at most museums – so much so that I’m starting to think I can list “juggling” as a skill on my LinkedIn profile. Our site is small in staff, though we have an talented group of volunteers, and together we have a 1,500-acre property to care for that has everything from wetland to farmland to built heritage to new structures. That’s a lot on the go at once! Come walk with me through a “typical” day to find out what I get up to when there isn’t…
- a wedding happening,
- a film crew working (hello, Murdoch Mysteries),
- a coyote lurking (I’m not kidding),
- a school group exploring,
- a bus tour visiting,
- or anything else out of the ordinary.
When I get in the door, I check emails, the phone, and our two most important social media accounts: Facebook and Twitter. I most often receive messages about mansion tours, requests for rental information, tickets for special programs, and queries related to the Lower Grand River Land Trust, which owns and operates Ruthven. If our Maintenance Coordinator or any volunteers are on site working, I quickly check in with them after conferring with our CAO to sort out a plan for their day depending on our current priorities. I also take a peek at my personal calendar to see what I have scheduled and the master office calendar to remind myself what else is going on that may or may not be in my purview. The day ahead really starts to take shape at this point in the morning. From May to September, when the summer students arrive, we have a quick chat about what changes will be made to their regular duties to accommodate what is happening on the site on that particular day. It’s good to keep tabs on what everyone is doing so their personal goals are fulfilled and our permanent staff receives the support they need. Remember what I said about juggling duties? It applies to people as well!
Throughout the day, I am first up for answering the phone and emails. I may drive into the town of Cayuga to do our banking, pay bills, and send and/or pick up mail on behalf of Ruthven and the Trust. In a way, I’m like command central because I act as the main information conduit for the site when I’m at work. I could have a couple of site viewings too; people who are interested in renting Ruthven’s beautifully restored 1850s Coach House usually like to have a look at our facilities before signing a rental agreement. Another significant responsibility I have is to supervise donations by grounds visitors and the sale of memberships and admission tickets for mansion tours, since the POS machine is located right at my desk in the Gate House at the entrance to the site. Due to this building’s position, I am able to monitor and direct the flow of people coming into and out of the site from my desk. Finally, Ruthven’s digital presence is one of my favourite responsibilities. Most of what you see on our Facebook and Twitter feeds comes from my keyboard, and I manage our website as well.
I hope I’ve given you a decent glimpse into what my daily life is like, without discouraging you from pursuing a similar position! I feel very lucky to have a fast-paced and rewarding job that gives me endless opportunities for professional growth. Find me on Twitter @MadelineSmolarz or connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like to stay in touch and talk museum operations.