Please note that the use of they/them pronouns is intentional and are the correct pronouns for Anna.
Anna Villanyi has the unique job of a Gallery Learning Experience Coordinator at The Field Museum. Having held the position for a year, Anna’s responsibilities range from staffing the museum’s interactive exhibit space, The Science Hub, to selecting and sharing the interactive exhibits with visitors. One of their favorites was an activity in which visitors compared the different wing anatomy of birds, bats, and pterosaurs.
Anna also helps coordinate and support the large number of volunteer educators that work at the museum. Behind the scenes, they research new experiences to add to The Science Hub, as well as maintaining and repairing the items used in the interactive exhibits. On any given day, they can be found laminating pictures or piecing back together items broken during the course of the day. It requires quick critical thinking and problem solving skills to “glue a rock with a fern fossil back together” at a moment’s notice. Although challenging, the work is rewarding and never mundane.
While certain opportunities arose through Anna’s undergraduate studies in anthropology and animal behavior research, their current role has less educational requirements and more experience requirements. Anna came to this position through a lifelong love of museums. They frequently visited museums with family and friends as a child, which later lead to summer volunteer work and internships at museums during college. During these summers, Anna realized how much they loved interacting with visitors and decided that was the direction they wanted their career to take, rather than an academic or research route. This eventually resulted in an interactive education job at the Orlando Science Center, where they worked before accepting the position at The Field Museum.
Anna’s love for this career comes from their investment in sharing educational opportunities with everyone. This aligns closely with the mission of The Field Museum, which was founded after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition to keep the natural history artifacts displayed in a publicly accessible space.
Anna describes what they do as “informal science education.” So much science education is compulsory, which is of course necessary, but can feel very rigid. Informal science education allows for a lot of flexibility in what you teach as well as who can access it. It allows for visitors to stumble across an interest they didn’t know they had. It is seeing a child find a new interest that Anna finds particularly rewarding. One of the more emotional and rewarding aspects of their jobs is watching a child who has just been really excited by an activity go over to their friends or parents to explain what they just learned. They describe it as watching that child now becoming the science educator.
When they are not facilitating museum experiences, Anna participates in a local roller derby league. To those who believe museums are boring, stagnant, and wordy, Anna encourages them to engage with museum staff and volunteers on their next visit. The people who work at these places are often passionate about the collections and the purpose of the museum. Their perspective can illuminate the place and make it come to life.
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