COVID Enables Lessons for Alumna in Museum Best Practices

Hailee Singleton, BA 2018, art history and history.

Despite COVID restrictions this year, art history alumna Hailee Singleton was able to work in a learning-intensive job that will help her in the next steps in her career.

Singleton, who received the BA in art history and history from UA in 2018, recently got the news that she has been accepted to the Master of Research in Collections and Curating Practices at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, to begin in the fall. She’s been preparing herself for more museum education with her recent work at several historic landmarks.

As the pandemic was worsening in the spring of 2019, Singleton began working as a senior curatorial aide at Monterey State Historic Park in Monterey, California, which holds a number of historic buildings and residences. As the only art historian on staff, she was given the task of inventorying the park’s collections. She also wrote interpretative panels and created mounts for several of the displayed objects. And she received training in object handling, historic housekeeping and museum best practices.

The Larkin House, ca. 1900. Image courtesy of Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

Singleton said that she felt her biggest achievement was initiating research on the park’s Larkin House, a National Historic Landmark. She began writing a finding aid for the house’s archives and collections that includes new information she discovered about the objects in the house and the people who lived there.

She also participated in an intensive deep cleaning of the historic buildings in the park. “During the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said, “our historic homes closed their doors to the public, but I was one of the lucky people who was able to keep my job. The director of my department fought hard to keep our team working, arguing that without us, our structures would fall into disrepair. During the time we were closed, we were able to accomplish a lot!”

Singleton knows she’s gained valuable experience that she might not have received without the restrictive circumstances of the pandemic. Now, as she moves to another exciting chapter in her career with graduate school in Scotland this fall, she’s already begun thinking ahead. “After my master’s,” she said, “I plan on continuing my career in the field of curation and hope to one day curate a large collection.”

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.