Employee Spotlight: Jan Masterson
Title: Collections Cataloguer
Worked at the Museum: 3 years
Hometown: Nashville, TN
1) You recently changed positions from our Guest Services team to Collections. Tell me a little about how that happened.
My background is actually in Collections. That’s what I worked in in other museums and that’s what I went to grad school for. We moved here for my husband’s job a few years ago and I was actually hired as seasonal staff during the 50th Anniversary, and then I got hired on to the Guest Services team permanently. But when the Collections position came up, it was perfect for me.
2) Tell me about your new position.
I’m working on cataloguing different parts of our collections. For example, I was working on some photographs of President Kennedy a week before the assassination when he was visiting a U.S. Navy ship in Florida. Right now, I’m working on some magazines from the 1960s and even one from 1995 when Rose Kennedy passed away.
3) What is cataloguing all about & why is it important?
Cataloguing is about capturing all the pertinent data about the item. The date, description of the item, donor information and the historical significance of an item. We also either scan & photograph it to have a visual record in the database. We try to get as much information as possible about the item, so that they can be searched for and found by researchers on our website. We have only catalogued about half of the more than 50,000 items in our collections. It takes a lot of time to catalogue, so we just have to slowly work our way through it.
4) What’s your favorite part about your new position and working at the Museum?
I love getting to handle the objects and investigating their significance. For example, yesterday I was working on a copy of a job application turned in by Lee Harvey Oswald from October 1963, and there was this handwritten note on the back from the interviewer about what a former employer told him. Basically, he was not recommended for the job. It’s just cool to see this little insight into what was happening in the past.
My favorite part about working at the Museum is the people I get to work with. It’s not such an enormous staff that you don’t know who people are. I enjoy that this is such a pivotal moment in U.S. history and getting to help tell that story.
5) What’s something cool that’s happened to you since you started working here?
A couple of weeks ago, I was working Admissions and I met this man who was a former Dallas police officer and he told me he was on the force in 1963, although he was not in Dealey Plaza when the assassination happened. But he was close to J.D. Tippit, so I immediately thought it would be great to ask him to participate in our Oral History Project. So I got his information and hopefully we’ll be able to capture his story. It’s pretty cool to get to meet people who have a connection with this place and what happened here.
6) Secret hobby/passion?
I knit! I keep a project with me everywhere. I keep one in the car in case I get stuck in traffic. I always have one with me and three sitting on my couch in the midst of being completed. I’m working on a skirt for my cousin’s 7 year old daughter and I’m working on two baby hats. And I’m making a turtle!
7) If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
To fly. It’d be cool to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Plus, you can skip traffic!