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Alumni spotlight: Clarissa Sanders ’14 Helps Small Museums Tell Their Stories

Spring/Summer 2019

Woman stands next to a sign that reads John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum Founded 2010 www.jjwmuseum.org
Clarissa Sanders '14 is the administrator and curator for the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum.

During her time at Bridgewater College, Clarissa Sanders ’14 discovered that public history was the passion she truly wanted to explore. When she began to doubt that she wanted to pursue a teaching career, her professors in the Department of History and Political Science encouraged her to seek volunteer and internship opportunities to find out if museum work was right for her.

She started with a summer internship position at the Spotsylvania County Museum in Spotsylvania, Va., and would continue to work there for the next three years. Sanders also became the first student to volunteer in the College’s Special Collections with Librarian Stephanie Gardner and appreciated the individual attention and training in archives and exhibitions she received. As a member of BC’s Civil War Club, she not only toured historic sites but also got to talk to directors and archivists and learn about the work of preservation from behind the scenes. “These experiences helped push me in the direction I wanted to go,” she said.

Whether it was in a research class with Dr. Brandon Marsh or even an early class in the Teacher Education Program, Sanders learned valuable skills she puts into practice every day. From Marsh, she learned how to present historical information concisely and make it exciting for a wide variety of audiences. From her class in the psychology of education, she gained an understanding into how people learn.

After graduating with her bachelor’s in history in 2014, Sanders was hired to work full-time at the Spotsylvania County Museum, and completed a master’s in museum studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2017. She is now the administrator and curator for the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum, an African American history museum in Spotsylvania County, and also works as an interpreter and visitor services assistant at the Dabbs House Museum in Henrico County.

“I love working in small museums and wearing multiple hats,” she said.

Sanders is currently completing her second master’s program, a master’s in history with a concentration in antebellum studies, from George Mason University. Her goal is to continue to help small museums tell their stories to a wider audience.

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