- Jason Crabill
Manager, Curatorial Services
Ohio History Connection
with former Astronaut and Senator John Glenn
Meet the Board: Jason Crabill
Please tell us a little about where you work and what you do there.
I am the Manager of Curatorial Services at the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society). My main responsibility is to manage and support the curatorial staff of the institution and all of the work they do to curate the collections throughout our state-wide network of sites, including the Ohio History Center, the state museum here in Columbus. I also work quite a bit on strategic and interpretive planning projects, exhibit development, oral history efforts and partner relations. One of the big initiatives I have been involved with over the last several years has been our efforts to reconnect with the Federally-recognized American Indian tribes with historic ties to the land we now call Ohio. It has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my personal and professional life.
What is your earliest museum memory (Perhaps an institution you visited as a child)?
My earliest museum memory is from the Street of Yesteryear at COSI in Columbus. They used to have a paper making shop, where 3-4 times a day they would do a show where they’d demonstrate the paper making process. I was 6 or 7 years old the first time I remember seeing it and watching the process just seemed like magic and seeing the step-by-step process made me feel like I was being given a secret key to the way the world worked. I believe to this day that my excitement surrounding that little papermaking demonstration is where my love of museums began.
What led you to go into the museum field?
I’ve always loved the idea of having fun while learning, and while that can happen quite a bit in the classroom, it always seemed to be one of the core functions of museums. I’ve also always been fascinated by the power objects have when a person connects with them on a personal, emotionally visceral level. I always wanted to be a part of that. Plus, how cool is it to work at a place where the goal, most of the time, is for people to have fun or be otherwise emotionally moved (all while learning a little along the way)?
What is your workspace like?
Autobiographical and messy.
What item in your office can you not live without?
My computer. And my OHC fleece (it gets cold in there sometimes!)
Describe your favorite work memory. What was your best day like?
My best day was probably the day I attended a Stomp Dance in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, sponsored by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. We were conducting oral history interviews with tribal members for our ongoing American Indian program working to reconnect the tribes with historic ties to the lands they were forcibly removed from here in Ohio. I just remember sitting there, listening to beats of the drums and watching the dancers, trying to reconcile all of the book-learning I had in school that essentially ended the story of Indians with the death of Tecumseh, and the progress of my country that was supposed to represent, with the reality that the descendants of those same people were alive and well and still fighting many of the same principled fights, all while trying to rediscover their own history from their time “back East.” It was a pretty powerful moment that I still regularly think about several years later.
What does your dream museum look like?
My dream museum is a place where you get messy and create things and break things and fix things and touch things and learn things and have a personalized experience that changes you forever. Also lots of old stuff.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Always know your exit.” Essentially this means that you should always be thinking enough steps ahead that you can be prepared for the unexpected. I think this is good advice in all facets of life and is something that, while I am not perfect at it, I think helps provide perspective to any situation and reminds me that there is always another way.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading David McCullough’s book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which I borrowed from the library because all of the copies of his book The Wright Brothers were already checked out.