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STAFF PROFILE: Allison Sheridan, Collections Manager

Posted on June 30, 2020 at 2:00 PM by Quinn Vandenberg

Three official job titles follow University Museums staff member Allison Sheridan’s name: Museum Collections Manager, Publications Coordinator, and Farm House Museum Manager.
Her nearly 19 years of work with University Museums have provided her an array of stories and experiences, including the acquisition of new art and the opening of new facilities. She has supervised over 75 interns by her rough count.

Allison originally came to Iowa State University in 1997 and graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in history and minor in political science. Her time as an undergraduate included instruction from the notable historian Dorothy Schwieder, and current Museums Chief Curator, Lynette Pohlman. In her senior year, she began her work with University Museums as an intern.

The origins of that internship remain fresh in her mind. “I remember fondly having to ride in the back of a cargo van all the way to Marshalltown. Not a bad task for an intern but made even greater by the fact that I was holding/supporting the loan of Impressionist paintings by internationally renowned artists Mary Cassatt, Camile Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Henri Matisse,” said Allison. “Needless-to-say, my 20-year-old heart was beating fast the entire drive! We returned the collection of paintings to the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown where I got to de-install the Christian Petersen exhibition we had loaned them in exchange.”

In the fall of 2001, following her graduation, the internship led to her first job after college. Her dedication and passion for the Museums also allowed her to pursue her master’s degree, which she received in 2011 in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies. For her final thesis project, she co-wrote and edited The Land Grant Act and the People’s College: Iowa State University and curated a timeline on the history of Iowa State. This timeline is still visible to all visitors to Morrill Hall on the ground floor.

During her time with University Museums, Allison (along with Lynette) became one of the first individuals in the nation to facilitate a loan of the original 1862 Morrill Act from the National Archives in Washington D.C. This document, commonly referred to as the Land Grant Act and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, required immense coordination with the National Archives and Records Administration, but her perseverance was not in vain. Iowa State University was able to proudly display the document for Iowa State’s 2008 Sesquicentennial Celebration. Due to the work of Allison and the Museums, students and faculty on campus could observe the seed that grew into their campus and educational institution.

IMAGE LEFT: Allison gives a tour of the Brunnier Art Museum to a class in 2004.

IMAGE RIGHT: Allison's visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle.

TOP IMAGE: Allison Sheridan stand in one of the University Museums' collection spaces holding America in the Making: Abraham Lincoln by N.C. Wyeth.

Currently, Allison has developed an affinity for the Museums glass collection. “My favorites include the contemporary studio glass, especially by Dale Chihuly, a lithyalin glass perfume bottle, Karen LaMonte’s Nocturne 5, and the three-part Empress pattern cut glass vase,” said Allison. University Museums’ glass collection alone is Iowa’s largest and one of just a few encyclopedic collections in the nation. However, Allison finds that most of her time is spent with the very old and the very new. “Being the Collection’s Manager, new objects and acquisitions are always at the top of my mind, however, I will often revert to our largest object in the collection - the Farm House Museum - as a trove of history and deep well of stories,” said Allison.

During her free time, Allison has seen a lifetime of travel. During her youth, her family went on various month-long trips across the United States and to foreign lands including Europe, Asia, Africa and Canada. This passion for adventure has remained, though her travel companion is now her husband, Chris. They have seen Europe and Australia together and plan to see much more.

“I have 19 years of stories to tell! From adventures with Lynette at the Met in New York City, to cleaning out estates in Albuquerque and Oregon with Susan Larson, travelling to pick up artwork with Adrienne Gennett, opening and re-opening of facilities, connections with over 75 interns, and personal interactions with artists and donors,” said Allison. “I am so glad to have this job, one that creates memories - some funny, some educational, and some deeply meaningful - but all artfully inspired.”

IMAGE LEFT: Allison in Australia.

IMAGE RIGHT: Allison Sheridan with the book she co-wrote and edited The Land Grant Act and the People's College: Iowa State University.

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