CI 2023: Collective Conversations with Karissa Hurzeler
Collections Information Specialist, Level II, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Get to know Karissa Hurzeler, Collections Information Specialist, Level II at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art™, in our new CI 2023: Collective Conversations interview. She delves into her trajectory to the museum world, what influences her collections care practices, and how The Museum Software (TMS) shapes her daily workflows managing the Lucas Museum’s iconic collection.
We’re looking forward to hearing Karissa present at the Gallery Systems user conference as one of our incredible CI 2023 speakers. Her session will explore the successes and turbulations of virtual cataloguing and how the Lucas Museum collections team developed effective, new approaches with TMS.
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is a much-anticipated Los Angeles museum, poised to open its doors in 2025. It was co-founded by George Lucas and Mellody Hobson. Dedicated to the art of visual storytelling, the Museum champions an inclusive approach and will showcase a growing collection that spans cultures, geography, and time to inspire new ideas and conversations.
Thank you for making time for an interview! Would you tell us a bit about your role at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art?
I am the Collections Information Specialist, Level II at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. In this role, I am responsible for overseeing data-related projects and ensuring data integrity, building out controlled vocabularies and style guides, and cataloging museum records in the collections management database, TMS.
My other responsibilities include supporting administration of TMS and the digital asset management system.
Gallery Systems is honored to have you as a CI 2023 speaker this November. What was the genesis behind your upcoming presentation on virtual cataloguing at Collective Imagination?
My upcoming presentation came out of a project I participated in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was part of a collections team that came together to figure out how we could continue moving forward with cataloging and processing of the collection from home.
We were able to make amazing progress throughout the pandemic and even discover new approaches to our workflows and methods when we returned to in-person work.
We’d love to hear about your career trajectory. How did you end up in the museum field?
Growing up I was always fascinated with archaeology, specifically the ancient Mediterranean. This led me to pursue degrees in archaeology and Classics as an undergraduate student at Boston University.
These fields do not provide many job options, and I was always leaning more towards museum work than teaching. I am someone with many interests and, following college, I pursued aerial dance for a year. Unfortunately, I suffered an injury and was faced with a decision on what to do next. This took me straight back to museums and I received my M.A. in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. It was during this program that I started to find my love for data-related work and digital accessibility in museums.
Following this program, I worked in visitor services and various part-time collections roles. One of which was Collections Information Specialist for the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at University of California Berkeley, where I fully realized how passionate I was about data-related museum work.
From there, I found my way to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, where I have been able to grow my skills and experience in so many ways as an Inventory Technician and Inventory Data Specialist, Collections Management Technician, and now Collections Information Specialist, Level II.
Throughout our careers, we tend to receive a lot of advice from mentors or peers. Is there a piece of advice that you’ve taken to heart?
A key piece of advice I received as an aerialist was that we should not be focused on trying to find the next new move or story, but instead take what you are passionate about and create something out of that passion that is your own.
This advice has stuck with me into my museum career and has given me a resourcefulness in my approach to my work—to first utilize the tools that I already have and then bring my own experience and perspective to my current project.
Collections often tell a story. How would you sum up the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art’s collection in one sentence?
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art’s collection connects various practices of storytelling throughout history and brings them together in exciting and relatable ways.
Lucas Museum of Narrative Art uses TMS as its collections management system. How does this software solution play a role in your daily tasks and workflows? Any TMS features you love?
98% of my job is TMS—I live and breathe the system daily.
All my data work is realized in the TMS system and in making that data and metadata accessible to Museum staff. I get to spend time exploring and learning every aspect of the system and brainstorming ways to ensure that it supports the Lucas Museum collection and staff to its fullest capability and is the central knowledgebase for the collection.
The Attributes Field and Thesaurus Manager are features that I love, being a data nerd. The ability to create controlled vocabularies that can fit the collection’s needs and bring various genres together in these vocabularies has been one of the most fun aspects of my job.
I also really enjoy the ability to easily move between the TMS modules when working through various relationship models and layers for each individual record type. It often makes my job much easier than having to go back to the start page every time.
As a collections information specialist, what are the most engaging projects you’ve worked on and why?
Building out the controlled vocabulary for our Star Wars objects was one of the most engaging projects I have ever undertaken. It not only allowed me to learn so much about cinematic works and collections, but to address fictional subject matter and align it with art museum standards was a really fun project for me.
The other fun project for me is being able to do object cataloging. Spending time researching an object and getting to know that object intimately always brings me great joy.
What’s one change you’ve made at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art that has had a major institutional impact?
I spearheaded an artist demographic working group to ensure that the Museum’s approach to collecting artist demographic data to ensure that we are recording artist identification to the artist’s wishes. We aim to ensure that this information is collected and recorded following best practices and takes into account an ever-changing society.
Looking toward the future, how do you see your cataloging practices evolving?
I see a lot of our digital collections management practices evolving to increase our accessibility and forward-facing systems as we prepare for opening. I dream of working with software that increases a user’s ability to interact with the collection digitally in new and fun ways.
I would also be very excited to start working with AI and utilizing it to identify similar or related objects in the collection and to assist in writing alt text for our objects. I hope to continue increasing my skills in writing code and working more with databases and digital interpretation.
Attend Karissa Hurzeler’s CI 2023 session
Karissa Hurzeler will be speaking at Collective Imagination 2023 on Friday, November 17.
Her presentation is entitled “From Inventory to Cataloguing: Developing a Collections Database During COVID-19,” and if you’re attending, you won’t want to miss it!
Lauren Turner is the Senior Communications Specialist at Gallery Systems. With 8+ years of industry experience, she has an extensive background in content marketing. She also earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Montréal's Concordia University.