Art History Alum Preserving Pathways to Our Past in New Role with Philadelphia Museum of Art
You might say Rachel Crouch was destined to work in an art museum. Rasied on Michigan’s east side, the KCAD alum (’17, BS Art History) began cultivating a passion for creativity and human history in early childhood thanks to frequent trips to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“Growing up, my dad would take me to the DIA all the time and I loved being surrounded by art,” says Crouch. “I knew that the one thing I wanted was to work in an art museum.”
Some years and a KCAD degree later, Crouch is living her dream. Following positions at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and The Charles A. Wright Museum of African American History, she’s earned her biggest opportunity yet: a position as the Records Coordinator for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
KCAD alumna Rachel Crouch celebrating her graduation from KCAD in 2017
For Crouch, it’s hard to understate the gravity of continuing to fulfill her long-held ambitions in one of America’s oldest cities, surrounded by a global collection artwork that holds its own against the world’s biggest and best.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be in a great city and to expand my knowledge,” she says.
In her new role, Crouch assists the Museum’s Conservation Department with requests, organizes files, and manages digital records. She’ll also be helping bring the museum’s collection to a broader audience by creating oral histories and content for social media.
In essence, it’s now Crouch’s job to bring art history to life for others in the same way it has happened for her.
“I’ve always been interested in how art history is a visual way to learn history; you get to see history through a creative lens,” she says. “It becomes something more tangible and a way to see a more personal account of how history is interpreted instead of the flat accounts you tend to get in history books.”
In the KCAD Art History program, Crouch found the perfect environment to translate her passion into a career path. Beyond her classroom experiences, she was able to work in two positions that fueled her interest in archiving, organizing, and communicating art historical images and data: one in the Visual Resource Collection (VRC) under Art History Professor Anne Norcross and another in the KCAD Library under Director Elise Bohn.
Rachel Crouch examining slides during her time in the KCAD Art History program
In both positions, Crouch researched, wrote, and cataloged metadata for massive content databases, focusing on ensuring users could be quickly connected to a topic, period, or specific artwork or artist they were interested in. Ultimately, the experiences motivated her to pursue a master’s degree in Library Science, which she’s currently finishing up at Wayne State University.
“They [Norcross and Bohn] both inspired me to pursue a graduate degree in with a focus in Archives and it opened me up to more opportunities,” Crouch says. “I love how this work allows you to be close to history and also to engage with the public.”
Working at The Henry Ford Museum shortly after graduating from KCAD further solidified Crouch’s direction.
“Someone came in one day looking for more information about an uncle of theirs who had worked at Ford Motor Company, and I found out that we had not only an oral history of this man, but also pictures,” she recalls. “It was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of someone’s personal history.”
As for what lies beyond her graduate degree and her work in Philadelphia, Crouch has her sights firmly set on continuing to grow and discover within her field.
“I would like to possibly work in collection management or as an archivist in a museum,” she says. “I like working in organizing collections whether in records or in artifacts; it always garners interesting discoveries.”