“Feature” Employee: Caitlin Coleman

Meet Caitlin, ASI’s dynamic assistant lab manager, who found her calling inCaitlin putting together an exhibit. collections management.

When she’s not baking delicious goods or sewing creative costumes, you’ll find this Museum Studies graduate organizing collections in ASI’s lab to the sound of history podcasts.

How did you become a laboratory manager?

I was always fascinated with history, so I started out taking a history and anthropology degree at McGill. I took some archaeology classes and I was hooked! My favourite subject was historic archaeology since it combined my two interests. Then, in order to continue working with artifacts, I took a Masters in Museum Studies.

Where did you go to school?

I went to McGill for my undergrad, and then went to University of Toronto and did my Masters at the iSchool. Here in the lab, our job is very much collections management, so I have been able to make good use of my degree.

If you weren’t a lab manager, what would you be?

I’ve done some freelance catering over the years, and I love cooking and baking. So I’m going to aim high and say I could be a pastry chef.

Who is your favourite historical figure and why?

Tamara de Lempicka is one of my favourite artists, and she had a pretty amazing life. She was an art-deco painter strongly influenced by cubism, and she became one of the most popular portrait painters in Europe in the 1920s, a time when most artists were men. She spent her younger years swanning around Paris in fashionable clothes and hats, hanging out with Picasso and Jean Cocteau, and having scandalous love affairs.

If you were an artifact what would you be?

The concept of my consciousness being confined forever to an inanimate object is sort of a horror movie plot. To improve my chances of keeping my sanity, I choose a fictional artifact; the toy canoe from Paddle-to-the-Sea (the classic Canadian children’s book by Holling Clancy Holling). I would get to see all of the Great Lakes and travel down the Saint Lawrence to the Atlantic.

What is your favourite lab memory? 

We put together an exhibit for the Wendat Village Public School in 2013, which is located adjacent to the Mantle site. We focused on what life would have been like for Wendat children in the early 16th century Mantle village, and it was so gratifying to feel that we made a real connection with those kids.

My least favourite thing about archaeology is…

…bricks. They’re heavy and predisposed to get mouldy if you’re not super careful with them. The bane of the lab!

To pass the time in the lab, I…

…listen to CBC radio in the morning, and lots of podcasts in the afternoon. Judge John Hodgman, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Sawbones, BBC 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, and This American Life are some of our favourites. Oh, and anything Serial related, obviously.

When I’m not working, I like to…

…draw, paint, make elaborate Halloween costumes and throw dinner parties!

My motto is…

…borrowed from Lemony Snicket: “Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems, in case they are ever trapped in an elevator.”

If I could go back in time and explore any historical site in the world, I would choose…

…the palace of Vaux-le-Vicomte during the reign of Louis XIV, which rivalled Versailles in its general fanciness. It was a centre for arts and culture, so I could hang out with Moliere and check out Classical-styled frescoes, statues and gardens. I love food history, so in particular I would like to go to the famous feast that was thrown there by Nicholas Fouquet, the French finance minister. The event was so over the top that Louis XIV assumed that Fouquet must be misappropriating funds and threw him in prison for life. That must have been a delicious feast!