Liberal arts versatility led to new career as museum curator

As a museum curator, currently at the National Museum of the American Sailor, Lynne Phillips ’98 has taken full advantage of the knowledge she gained from her liberal arts education at Ripon College.

Phillips majored in biology and French at Ripon because she always felt a natural draw to the natural sciences and history. However, after she graduated, she didn’t feel a clear career path calling to her. She says she realized that the only thing she loved more than her chosen majors was “Star Wars.” The love she felt for the “Star Wars” universe led her to pursue a career in the film industry, where she stumbled upon a job handling artifacts in the Lucasfilm archives — a job that required her to have a history major.

Prior to this experience with Lucasfilm, she didn’t know it was possible to have a major in museum work, she says. To make this dream a reality, she applied and attended JFK University in Berkeley, California. She completed this museum major alongside a history minor, which eventually led to her dream career path.

On a day-to-day basis, being a museum curator consists of taking care of collections, updating catalogues, tracking artifact loans incoming and outgoing, providing artifacts, giving talks to large groups as the curator of the museum, and researching and writing for upcoming exhibitions, Phillips says. Her interest in her current position, at the National Museum of the American Sailor at Naval Station Great Lakes just north of Chicago, stems from the fact that her father is a military historian and she has grown up learning about military history. However, she says she would love to keep learning about different parts of history and spend the rest of her career further exploring her passion for history.

Phillips credits her ability to be versatile in her career to Ripon College and the incredible, close relationships with professors she fostered here. “My liberal arts education taught me how to think and taught me how to learn, which is what made me able to switch from my original majors to the career path I am in now,” she says. “I credit Ripon for that.”

Payton Blessing ’19
Eden Prairie, Minnesota


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Lynne Phillips