Posted on 11/25/2020 at 12:00 PM by Quinn Vandenberg
Two purposes give University Museums' Interpretation Specialist Brooke Rogers a sense of joy in life: the acquisition of new knowledge and the opportunity to share what she has learned with people around her. While observing Brooke's positive attitude and cheery disposition, it is safe to assume her work with University Museums fulfills her purposes and brings her joy. She can be found sitting at the front desk of museums, training docents, leading students on art walks, and igniting conversations about art.
"I love the stories that come out of museums. While talking to people, I learn new things. Not just about an object, but about the other person as well," says Brooke.
Brooke hails from the town of Kankakee, Illinois. As a child, her parents took her to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and she became enamored with the idea of working in a museum. Back in Illinois, she secured an internship at the Field Museum in Chicago. For three years in high school, she worked with fossils, mummies and, most importantly, the public.
Brooke attended Drake University in Des Moines where she double majored in environmental science and anthropology/sociology. She studied museum curation throughout her years at Drake and, while a student, worked for the Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines. However, it seems Brooke's favorite and most conversation-evoking college memory is rooted in taxidermy.
"I went downstairs in the environmental science building. I opened the door to the classroom, and there was a bunch of college students around a long table. On the table were lunch trays. On the lunch trays were dead birds," recalls Brooke. "I ended up loving it, and it gave me a great understanding of how natural collections can come about."
While at Drake, Brooke also developed a familiarity with museums and public exhibitions throughout Des Moines. Her internship at the Historical Society of Iowa evolved into a job. She then moved on to the Wells Fargo History Museum: her first introduction into working primarily with art. She would also spend time with more unconventional collections, including the Des Moines Botanical Garden and the Waukee Public Library.
When working with the public, Brooke has established a unique philosophy towards education and eliciting conversation. Her key is approachability; her vibrant draw and eager energy make her accessible and easy to talk to.
"People are much smarter than they give themselves credit," says Brooke. "I try to talk to people in a way that is approachable, but I don't dumb anything down. I try to cast a wide net, and I think being approachable is the biggest skill I try to incorporate in my teaching."
Brooke frequently leads students around campus on tours of University Museums' collections, and she holds her attendees in high regard. She starts by asking the audience a simple question, "By a show of hands, how many of you are comfortable talking about art?" Usually, very few people raise their hands. According to Brooke, this lets the students know that they are not alone in their unfamiliarity with art, and that they have no one to impress or outperform. The students become comfortable, and then they begin to talk.
In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with her partner Donovan and dog Magnolia.
IMAGE ABOVE: Interpretive Specialist Brooke Rogers gives a tour of the Contemplate Japan exhibition at the Brunnier Art Museum to a group of students.
TOP LEFT: Interpretive Specialist Brooke Rogers
BOTTOM LEFT: Brooke and her significant other Donovan
RIGHT: Brooke and her dog Magnoila