The crest you see is that of the United States Army Medical Department (AMEDD). It was adopted in 1862 by Surgeon General William Hammond. The Latin text translates to experience and progress. I first came to see this crest and understand its importance in our American culture in the fall of 2000 when I came to be employed at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine (NMCWM) in Maryland. Recently I had time to stare at it a bit and I came to realize how important these Latin words have been in my life.
In many ways, these words could be the slogan of all well constructed education. We experience things that we are exposed to and we use this experience to progress in our understanding. This was certainly true of the experiential education I received as a Boy Scout. Learning woods craft, outdoor survival, leadership, marksmanship, first aid and other skills by actual experience led me to be able to progress in my other studies based on the broad scope of what I had already learned. When I walked through the doors of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, I had no real idea of just how prepared life had made me for the job by seemingly unrelated experience. It was not my historical studies at St. Louis University that made me truly prepared to be a museum professional, it was the combination of classroom education, self study and a broad range of experiences that prepared me. The older I get, the more I lament of the lack of importance we place on broad, seemingly unrelated, experience in hiring and the workplace.
When in 2003 I was promoted from the education office to executive director I began to have my eyes opened. To that point in my life I had been a manure scooper, a soda jerk (insert snide comments here), a commercial insurance broker, a police officer, an historical interpreter, a banjo maker and a firefighter/EMS First Responder. I can truthfully say that every single on of these past "lives" came to my rescue at one time or another as I felt my way along in my new position. From an understanding of barns, to customer service, to loss prevention, woodworking and metal working skills, communication methodologies and emergency planning, every part of my life came to be used.
What the museum board of directors saw in my, I did not see for myself. They chose me to direct a museum at a time when nothing in my resume said I was qualified in the "professional experience" sense. They saw my experience as a whole, not simply a degree or professional training. I will never be able to thank them enough. They saw a potential in me that I did not see. They gave me opportunities to gain the education I needed, and most importantly, they allowed me to fail from time to time so that I could learn from my own mistakes! Sometimes that is the best education of all.
During my time at the NMCWM I grew in both experience and understanding. I was given the great honor of working in the collection of Dr. Gordon Dammann and under his mentorship. I had the opportunity to develop relationships in the National Park Service, General Services Administration, United States Army Medical Department, the American Alliance of Museum and numerous other museums and organizations from around the country. This experience will now be used to bring progress to the AMEDD museum, along with all of the combined experience of the awesome staff I am now so honored to lead.
As I now re-enter the museum field after my year-long work at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, I am reminded daily of the words which have meant so much. I now continue on to experience for the sake of progress. I will again pick up my blog and share that experience as it happens. I hope something I write will touch someone else and that readers will comment back that I might learn from them!
Come visit us! http://ameddmuseum.amedd.army.mil/