February 28, 2019

Ask a Preparator

Go behind the scenes and learn how our galleries come to life

by Alicia Goode, Preparator Supervisor and Taxidermist

Are you interested in the behind-the-scenes of OMCA? Have you ever wondered what it takes to build exhibitions or take care of taxidermy? We asked OMCA Preparator Supervisor and Taxidermist Alicia Goode six questions on what it’s like to build, install, and maintain our Galleries of California Art, History, and Natural Sciences.

What is a preparator? 
At OMCA, the preparators are the team of folks responsible for the building, fabrication, installation, and maintenance of our Museum’s exhibits. We also pack and transport objects from our collection, help with audio and video components in the galleries, and maintain the outdoor sculptures on campus.

What sets OMCA preparators aside from others? 
Many museums these days will contract outside companies to make many of the exhibit elements they need for their shows, but our Museum is special in that we produce almost everything in-house. We produce everything from our graphics to taxidermy. We like to say that we can make anything here in our shops, given enough time and resources. 

What does a preparator’s day look like? 
It all depends on what’s on the menu, and it changes every day. There are routine responsibilities, like collections work, gallery maintenance, and trucking. Then there’s the list of what’s coming down the pipeline for the next exhibit build.

Do preparators come from different backgrounds?
Absolutely! At OMCA we have preparators from many different backgrounds. Some have come to us from other museums, while others have previous experience from other departments within our institution. We have artists, builders, metal workers, designers; people who have advanced degrees and some who went straight into the workforce from high school. The common denominator seems to be that we are all creative types with a good eye for detail, and the love of museums is what led us to finding a way to use our skill sets to work in them.

What would I need to get started as a preparator?
The only prerequisites are creative thinking, ability to work well in a team, and a love for museums. We look for people who have a background in art handling, construction, experience in other fabrication houses, even something like working in concrete! A Museum Studies background is helpful, but you don’t have to necessarily have gone to school for it. Woodworking classes are a good way to get experience, and you can take that a local community college. There are also organizations in the Bay Area that offer free workshops in art handling and woodworking.

What is your favorite part about being a preparator?
There is never a dull moment. With the ever-changing nature of the exhibitions, maintenance, and collections needs, one of the best parts of the job is that every day is different. I also enjoy how this line of work is always challenging us to come up with creative solutions and new ways of thinking.


Interested in joining the team at OMCA? Click here.

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