For most people, starting a job during a global pandemic can prove difficult. But for museum collections managers, it turns out, things aren’t all bad.
That’s the experience for Julien Kimmig, who begins the inaugural position of collections manager for the EMS Museum & Art Gallery. The unexpected downtime is allowing him to get acquainted with the museum’s roughly 20,000 specimens, many of which require advanced research to properly catalog. It’s also a chance for him to aid the museum in strengthening three core missions: highlighting the collection, research and outreach.
Kimmig, who joins the museum after working as a researcher and invertebrate paleontology collections manager at the University of Kansas, will be tasked with organizing and updating the collections in a globally accessible database so that the materials can be used and loaned out worldwide. He’ll also be transferring pieces to climate-controlled storage units funded through an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.
“We now have the luxury of time to organize this collection,” Kimmig said. “This is something that, once it’s done, will be of scientific value for researchers at Penn State and beyond.”
It’s nothing new to Kimmig, who got his start in museums while earning his undergraduate degree in geology and Earth science from the University of Göttingen in Germany. There, as assistant curator, he helped catalog the entire collection. From there he moved on to the Natural History Museum London to research and care for phytosaur and shark fossils.
“Göttingen was my first taste of museum work,” Kimmig said. “That’s when I realized working with museum collections was what I wanted to do.”
Kimmig also will be tasked with aiding the mission set out by museum director Jane Cook of expanding exhibits to be more encompassing of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ far-reaching research efforts.
Outreach efforts are also a focus.
He also says it’s important to show the public – especially young minds – the exciting and valuable sides of science.
“Another big pillar of this position will be expanding outreach while recruiting students to do more in school and public events,” Kimmig said. “Our goal is to get more people interested in what the college is doing, what the museum is doing and hopefully be able to showcase nicely our role at Penn State.”
Kimmig earned his doctorate in paleontology in 2014 from the University of Saskatchewan. His research background uses geochemical, taxonomic and sedimentological approaches to help understand prehistoric ecology and climates.
Kimmig plans to continue research and field work while readying the museum for the future. His goal is for it to set the standard for what is possible within a small, University-run museum.
“I hope to help create one of the best database collections in the country. With the collections and the staff that we have, we can get there,” Kimmig said. “I want our collection to be complemented by good pictures and up-to-date information. That’s going to take a few years but that’s what we hope to accomplish.”