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Spotlight on Alumna Shannon Nortz: From The Ringling to The Smithsonian

Published August 30, 2019


I’m in a very lucky position to interact with the many people across the Smithsonian that care for and bring together our nation’s treasures. It was a mix of hard work and amazing support from my supervisors that made all the years of skill-building worth it.

Since April 2019, Shannon Nortz (MA ’18) has been working in a contract position as Collections Professional Development Assistant with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collections Program (NCP). The NCP is a central administrative office that advises, assists, and advocates for all the collecting units of the Smithsonian. The NCP’s initiatives include collection development and care, funding, digitization, space planning, and emergency management.

After graduating with her Art History MA in Museum & Cultural Heritage Studies in 2018, Shannon was awarded an internship with the NCP, which led to her current contract position. Her responsibilities include working on an institution-wide core curriculum, publishing Collections Quarterlies feature stories and articles, facilitating a collections-focused webinar series, and supporting training workshops and conferences.

In describing her career path, Shannon refers to the depth of knowledge she gained from her studies at FSU as well as the skills and contacts she acquired in multiple internships. As a major in History and Art History with a minor in Museum Studies, she completed five undergraduate internships from 2011 to 2016: at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL; the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee; and the FSU Museum of Fine Arts. She gained a wealth of practical experience to add to her research-focused coursework.

It was clear to me from the start that, if I wanted to work as a museum professional, I needed to dive head first into interning and to complete as many opportunities as I could before entering the work force…. I will be honest. It was difficult to complete these internships with the load I had. On top of interning, I was working two jobs, taking a full class load, had a leadership position in an extracurricular group, and I was on track to become a Garnet and Gold Scholar. But at the end of it all, I was so glad to develop a really strong skillset and gain a really supportive network of professionals who generously mentored me through this balancing act.

Thanks in part to her extensive experience, in her first year in the Art History graduate program, Shannon was selected for a position as the Collections and Exhibit Research Assistant at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum. In her second year of graduate work, she moved from Tallahassee to Sarasota for The Ringling Track year-long graduate internship. During her time there, she documented her experiences and training in a blog, My Ringling Year, with the goal of providing a detailed reference for future or prospective Ringling interns.

In addition to her job at the Smithsonian, Shannon is now pursuing a certificate in Museum Studies from the Harvard Extension School and continuing to offer advice and support to future museum professionals through the FSU Career Center’s ProfessioNole mentorship program. She concludes, “I am a big believer in Michelle Obama’s advice, ‘When you walk through a door, hold it open for the others behind you.’ It feels great to be able to give back in that way to someone else starting out in the museum field.”


Shannon Nortz participating as a documentation team member in a Smithsonian Fire Recovery in Collections workshop at the National Institute of Standards and Technology,. Photo credit: Michael Barnes