Jessica B. Phillips, Marist ‘05
Majored in History with minors in Political Science and Philosophy
What has your career path been to this point?
I got my first taxable job at 14 when I wanted to go on a trip to France with my French class. That job was in a restaurant as a busser. It was tough and I missed hanging out with my friends, but I got to see Paris. I continued to work in the restaurant industry throughout college. I even picked up a second job at the Marist bookstore. I changed restaurants a few times, but the work was always the same. It helped pay for graduate school too. I received my first museum job as a Volunteer Coordinator at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum six months after graduating with my MA in History. The pay was drastically lower than the tips I made as a server but I had medical benefits, a 403(b) and a job in my field. It felt great. After two and half years I moved on to be a curator at Fraunces Tavern Museum. This job grew into an Executive Directorship and after nearly eight years I transferred the skills I had learned to my current role as CEO at Historic Richmond Town. I think it's important to note that for each new job it took me 1-2 years of dedicated searching/applying to get that new job.
Can you share an experience/memory from your time at HRVI that stands out as meaningful?
I was scanning a book on the beaver trade in New York. I was lost in the monotony of the work. I was thinking about what I was going to do after college. I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. I knew I didn't want to be a classroom teacher either. I started talking to the HRVI staff about this question. They said, what about working in museums? That changed my whole life. They helped me secure a summer internship at Constitution Island. It was there I fell in love with public history.
As HRVI celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022, do you have any advice for future HRVI interns based on your time at HRVI and your experience in your professional field?
Preserving and interpreting history is important and hard work. Whether it's scanning an out-of-print book on the Dutch beaver trade or managing a multi-million dollar living history site. History workers must be collaborative and welcoming to all.
*note from staff: check out Jessica's further advice to public historians here:
https://ncph.org/history-at-work/ask-a-public-historian-jessica-baldwin-phillips/ and learn more about her exciting work at Historic Richmond Town here: https://www.silive.com/news/2020/03/historic-richmond-town-new-director-fuels-rebirth-with-passion-for-history.html.