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Museum Curator Passionate About UNH History

By Shannon Bryant
January 16, 2008

Photo by Christina VanHorn, Human Resources

Volunteerism has always figured prominently in the life of museum curator Dale Valena.

“While one needs a Master’s degree in museum studies these days, I started as a volunteer at the Seattle Art Museum and worked my way into the art museum field,” Valena says. “Hands-on experience at the very least is required, which is how I was able to get a job without a degree. My first exhibition experience was with the King Tut exhibition in the late 1970s.”

Valena began her career with UNH part-time back in 1989 by packing the museum collection from storage in the Field House to its new location in Thompson Hall. The museum was first opened in the mid-1960s by Phil Wilcox, and then closed in the 1970’s. When the Dimond Library was renovated in 1998, the museum moved to its present location.

Currently, Valena’s main responsibilities include organizing and installing two exhibitions per year, managing the museum’s collection and assisting in the special collections/archives department.

“I love my job because it’s always changing; there’s a process with an end and then a new beginning,” she says. “I love the deadlines because they keep me on track and coming up with an idea for an exhibition and if I pull it off well, is the most satisfying experience.”

“My supervisor and our dean have been really supportive of me and my work. The staff of special collections and archives contributes to each exhibition in some way. I use the archives collections for much of the research and exhibition materials, and the archives assistant is a walking encyclopedia of UNH history. These people have had a very positive impact on me. Additionally, the opportunity to finish my undergraduate degree at UNH (’04) is something that I am deeply grateful for, and appreciative of.”

When asked what she enjoys most about working at UNH, Valena said, “The staff here is great, and I love the students. I like the seasonal changes on campus with the busy semesters balanced by the quiet summers. I love the research intensity of the job that then turns into a hands-on creative experience.”

As an inveterate volunteer, Valena presently volunteers with a local grassroots energy committee (Oyster River Carbon Challenge) and also helps with the annual Seacoast Concert for a Cure (breast cancer fundraiser).

“I love music and I hope to one day resume a postponed career as a lounge singer,” she says. “Until then, I enjoy hanging out with my hubby and college-aged kids.”

You can visit the university museum in Dimond Library to explore the current exhibit by Valena, titled "Up Close and Personal: A Look at the NH Primaries". The exhibit presents a local collection of political memorabilia and offers a look at the unique access to candidates and chronicles the New Hampshire primaries. For more information on the exhibit, which will be on display until January 22, visit: http://unh.edu/news/campusjournal/2007/Sep/19politics.cfm.

The museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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