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Meet Ashley Burke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Burke. 

Hi Ashley, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I grew up in St. Petersburg and have been involved in the arts from an early age. From attending summer camp at the Morean (when it was the Arts Center), to attending Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, to working as registrar at the Museum of Fine Arts and today working locally as an art appraiser and art consultant. 

As a St. Petersburg native, I have seen the city grow and transform over the last 40 years. Throughout this growth, the arts have always played a key role in the life and story of the city. Today, there is so much emphasis on growth that it has me looking to the past for the story that got us to where we are now. The history of the arts has always been a part of our story, but that story is not as well known or told anywhere. I want to help change this and start looking back. In coordination with the St. Petersburg Museum of History, we want to create a program to begin capturing, documenting, and preserving this long history of the arts. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
This is a new project and it is just starting, but I see the challenges that lay ahead. The biggest struggle will be to bring all the history together. Once the new archive is established, the challenge will be finding the materials that help tell this story. Right now, I don’t know what history has been preserved and who holds some of those stories. I’ve just started the process of contacting local arts organization to help determine what they have and what their full stories are. 

Again, since this is such a new project, I see the other big struggle will be the funding for the project. This archive will take a lot to develop in terms of research and outreach, then once the artwork and papers start surfacing, I will have to determine what space is needed to house the new collection. And then there is the management of information! So many challenges lay ahead. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I have been a museum professional for the last 15 years in the field of collections management and registration. Of course, people always wonder what that means. It means I am the voice of the art in a museum. It’s like a zookeeper at a zoo, in this case, the animals are the art. The artwork all requires different things, some need to be in the dark, some need low humidity, etc. And at the same time, any changes in the art (condition, conservation) and movement (exhibitions, loans) all have to be documented and coordinated (sometimes too much paperwork) and this is the job of the collection’s manager/registrar. 

In this role, I have worked with most of the local museums in some way including the Ringling Museum, Bishop Museum, Leepa Rattner, James Museum, and of course the Museum of Fine Arts. I have also been actively involved in the Florida Association of Museums and developed programs to help other professionals better understand the care and management of artwork. 

I have expanded beyond this museum work and now also work with personal collectors as both an art consultant (artwork care and maintenance, and art research) and as an art appraiser (insurance, estate planning, charitable contributions). I come from a very small field and my work is pretty specialized, so if you need help with any of the above things, I’m the person for the job. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I love what I do. I get to work with art most days and surround myself with small pieces of history. Last week I packed a collection of small cast metal artworks over 2500 years old and this week I am going to be reading up on all the arts activities happening in St. Petersburg in the 1930s. Museum work is all about making history tangible and connecting the story through the visual (usually artwork or objects). There is so much I am still learning and experiencing, and I am excited about doing something for my hometown and be part of documenting and establishing the historic record. 

Oh also, I am a metalsmith in my free time! 

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