May 2023, Michael Shepherd

May Member of the Month: Michael Shepherd, Assistant Director, Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University

Michael Shepherd is the Assistant Director for the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University.

What’s one thing — either industry/work-related or not — you learned in the past month?

The most honest answer for me over the last month is my collection.  I have only been with my current collection for the last 9 months, and the majority of that time consisted of moving our 130,000 objects across the city to a new storage location.  Now that we are settling in, I am daily finding things in the collection that I was unaware we had. I love the opportunity to learn more about each object as I am discovering them.

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

The Philadelphia Inquirer food critic, Craig LaBan. I would love to spend my day eating my way through the Philadelphia food scene with someone else picking up the tab. 

Coffee or Tea?

I am definitely a fan of both.  I drink my morning coffee with my daughter, while she eats her breakfast, and it is always my favorite part of the each morning. And ever since we bought an electric tea kettle, it is fairly common for me and my wife to have a cup of tea after dinner.

Book/Author suggestion?

I am not the biggest of readers, which usually comes as a shock to anyone I encounter in our field. What I have been reading recently is about the music I loved when I was growing up.  Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo by Andy Greenwald and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib are the two that have stood out the most to me.  I think they are must reads for anyone that was in high school during the 1990s.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I really wanted to be a professional baseball player.  But even as a 10 year old, I knew that it was a low probability, so I came up with a not-at-all specific back up plan: Baseball stadium architect working for the HOK Sport design firm.  Camden Yards in Baltimore had just been completed, and I was amazed by it.  Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I had the concrete circle we called Veterans Stadium, so seeing something that looked unique, was beautifully designed, and resembled the stadiums you saw in baseball history books made me want to be a part of that. 

What do you enjoy most about being a part of an academic museum?

Our community-centered missions.  Many of us have galleries that we need to fill, or plan exhibitions on a regular basis, but my experience with academic museums is that our primary focus is on meeting the needs of our communities by expanding access beyond what is expected of non-academic museums. Being able to open our doors to researchers of all experience levels makes me feel like our work has a real impact.   

What are your hopes for our industry?

All of my individual projects throughout my career have focused on expanding access and highlighting underrepresented communities within our professional field and our collections.  These are two parts of our work that I feel so strongly about, and I was encouraged to see museums across the country finally receive BOD support to move forward on initiatives related to these topics.  My hope for our industry is that this support remains strong.  We need to continue to identify which communities should be, and are not, represented in our collections and actively work to correct those omissions. 

Bonus: Do you have a favorite joke to share?

With some help from my daughter: Why are ghosts so bad at lying?

Because you can always see right through them!