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Special Discounts for Girl Scouts: June 2-11

Meet Cheryl Washer

Registrar and Project Director, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)

Cheryl Washer at work
Cheryl and Titanoboa.
What I work on at the Smithsonian.

I’m responsible for the stuff SITES travels. “Stuff” isn’t just rare and valuable museum objects (all though there are those); “Stuff” includes the crates for the objects, the cases in which the objects are displayed, the TV monitors, the labels that tell you what you see, and then the boring paperwork to make it all happen. I make sure the exhibition and the museums who want the show fit each other—from if they have the right kind of guards to if the crates get through their doors (you’d be surprised how often that happens). This work includes reviewing drawings of exhibition designs, keeping lists of hardware (Phillips screws? Roberts screws?), reporting on the condition of objects, writing on how to put an exhibition together, and hiring trucking companies.

Cheryl as a Girl Scout
Best moment at the Smithsonian

I relish that every exhibition has a new challenge—and that I specialize moving and displaying weird and large things. Travel freeze dried spiders? Travel Jabba the Hutt? Travel a one-ton piece of the Pentagon Façade with historic soot and dirt from the 9/11 attacks? Install a 48 foot life size replica of a snake that existed 60 million years ago? I’m your woman.

Each exhibition is also a new learning opportunity—I get a master class from each Smithsonian curator. I now know about pancake batfish, what they eat, and how their digestive system works. I now know how spiders spin a web. Finally, my job is what I like to do best—looking at museum collections and learning about what I see.

Advice for Girl Scouts interested in a career like mine?

First, be very curious. Second, try and learn many skills. For example, I have a masters degree in Art History; I can paint and spackle a wall; I taught myself how to use Photoshop; I can write a contract in proper government speak; I can dress a wig (for museum mannequins).

Ask me about my work at the Smithsonian!

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