I love workplace memoirs. I also love online restaurant simulators, and other games that mimic occupations. What does this mean? I have no idea. It probably just means I’m weird. The point is, despite my love of workplace memoirs, I’d never read one about museum work until this one. Tim Grove has spent several decades working in the most illustrious of museums, including the Smithsonian. As he says in the introduction, “For twenty years my goal has been to help history haters change their minds.”
Personally, I think there was too much “memoir” and not enough “workplace.” If I read a book about a Starbuck’s barista, I want to know exactly where they stored the ingredients. I wanna know how often they took breaks, what the morning routine was like, what they learned about life in exact terms. I wanna know how people thought of them, what drinks were ordered most often, the weirdest and funniest and most-commonly-said statements from customers. You don’t really get that from A Grizzly in the Mail, it’s more general thoughts on American history, historical interpretation, etc.
However, once I embraced it for what it was, it was a lot of fun to read. The style is engaging and light, but still informative. He talks about bicycles, cotton gins, interpreting Lewis & Clark inclusively, and more. I’m not even interested in American history, but Grove knows what stuff to talk about to make it interesting. He has a really good grasp of what the average American knows about U.S. history, and he’s able to make that knowledge seem new and relevant. I do recommend the book for those interested in museums, historical oddities, or indeed workplace memoirs.
This was a very short review, so I’ll leave you with some links and recommendations:
- historyplaces, Tim Grove’s blog (which I’m now following)
- the incluseum, a blog about museums and social inclusion
- I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student by Patrick Alitt, a workplace memoir about being a history professor at Emory