On Tuesday, July 28, 2015, the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council welcomed a visiting group of professional visitors from Azerbaijan to Cincinnati in conjunction with the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, titled, “Innovative Museum Management in the U.S.” Because this program explores the communication, public relations, and marketing strategies of museums, among other associated themes, the group met with Matthew Kelley, Faculty member of the History & Geography department at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) to discuss the department’s suite of degrees for young professionals including its Master’s Degree in Public History. The professionals from Azerbaijan were looking to gain insight from NKU and gather practical, applicable information to integrate into their existing strategies at the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art.
The meeting started off with a quick introduction, as Matthew Kelley began explaining the department’s programs, placing emphasis on its Master’s Programs in Academic History and Public History. On behalf of the program’s director, Dr. Brian Hackett, Matthew Kelley explained the significance of creating impactful and accessible opportunities to engage the public in history and current events. Graduate students are able to facilitate community partnerships with local museums both in and out of the classroom. While their curriculum centers around exhibits, curation, artifact procurement, archives, and other behind the scenes work that goes into making a museum thrive, graduate students are able to take their knowledge along with their personal backgrounds and interests, and apply them to their environment. This enables students with the flexibility to professionally and socially interact with a multitude of disciplines.
Amina Malikova, Ph.D., Chief of International Affairs and Museum Innovations at the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art feels as though her young employees are motivated and require an elevated level of professionalism to match their enthusiasm for Azerbaijan’s rich history and culture. Her colleagues agreed that improving professionalism and the quality of their educational programs will enable them to create jobs not only within the museum, but beyond in positions like consulting or academic research.
To address their concerns, Matthew Kelley explained the Public History program’s success is reliant on their alumni network and support from the local community. He mentioned how he worked with the history of the Beverly Hills Supper Club as a graduate student and learned how to tactfully present information to the public. These practical experiences opened up other opportunities, professional and personal, to which he could engage himself. This is how NKU students have the level of professionalism needed in the museum industry.
As a thank you for the hospitable and informative session, the Azerbaijani visitors gifted Matthew Kelley with a book about the oil boom in Azerbaijan, depicted through art. Oil and art play important roles in Azerbaijani history and culture and they wanted to share their pride with not only Cincinnati, the country as a whole.
Written By: Katie Beckley (intern)