Currently at the National Gallery of Canada as Registrar of Loans and Art Transit, Queen's Art History alumna Eleanore Mackie (M.A. '20) is discovering the joy of the professional museum world. Her path to Art History includes a background in ballet and a passion for archaeology, and during her time at Queen's, Mackie learned the importance of staying flexible, empathetic, and always curious:
Why did you pursue an Art History degree?
"Being in competitive dance from a young age, I was introduced to the study of art through the history of ballet. All students were expected to develop a solid knowledge base not only of musical compositions and performance variations but also of classical set and costume designs. Visiting museums and art galleries also happened to be one of my favourite past-times. I was one of those kids who whole-heartedly believed I could be an archaeologist. So, when I arrived for my first year at Queen’s, blending my two passions of Art and History seemed like a no-brainer to me! It felt like (and still does feel like) fulfilling a childhood dream."
What career paths did you envision after graduation?
"After graduating from my Bachelor’s at Queen’s, I was encouraged to pursue academia further by taking on a Master’s degree. While this satisfied me intellectually, it was through subsequent studies abroad, meeting museum professionals, and having in-depth discussions with profs about my future that I realized working behind-the-scenes at major institutions is what really intrigued me. Things like travelling exhibitions, collections management systems, and even marketing techniques were part of a larger understanding of the museum world that I hadn't yet explored. I submitted my final paper only a few months before the pandemic began so, my visions for a career path have really been in a constant state of flux. I had to stay adaptable and practical. I've applied to and completed internships in almost every field of museum work since then, and I am still discovering careers that are totally new to me."
What are some unexpected ways your Art History education has served you in your professional life?
"I think that this path of study has inherently made me more empathetic. Through it, I've been exposed to a wide variety of cultures, different ways of thinking, different mediums and even materials that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to be introduced to before. Having the ability and the willingness to remain open to new perspectives while practicing kindness will take you far, no matter where you are."
What advice would you give to current students of Art History at Queen’s?
"My piece of advice for current students of Art History at Queen's would be to take advantage of the resources that you have around you. Talk to your profs. It might be intimidating at first, but they are there to help guide you. If you don’t want to talk about you, ask them about what they are working on! They’ve always got interesting bits of research that they’re willing to share. Volunteer or seek out part-time work either on campus or in Kingston. It doesn’t have to be specifically with arts organizations, but even something like running a social media account or organizing an event for a club will help to beef up your resume. Finally, reach out to recent alumni to see if something they’ve done might be of interest to you. Internships and job applications can be difficult to navigate but we've been through it before and are often happy to lend a helping hand."