Running the building

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Katie Haigh oversees the installation of exhibitions and facilities management at the IMA

By Beth Taylor

Katie Haigh seamlessly combines her art history education with her learned-on-the-job HVAC knowledge as the deputy director for collections, exhibitions and facilities management. Although women outnumber men in the museum field’s curation jobs nationwide, there are few female facilities managers.

Originally planning to attend the University of Cincinnati to major in fashion design, Haigh said she found art history, “kind of accidently.”

Spending special days at the Cincinnati Art Museum as a child influenced Haigh’s career. “My mother is a huge arts advocate,” said Haigh. “One of her best friends was a docent at the museum—still is to this day. She’d bring me on tours. We’d get dressed up, have lunch and just make a day of it.”

After receiving her degree in art history from UC, Haigh began her career at the same museum she’d gone to as a child. Haigh worked at the Cincinnati Museum of Art for 13 years before deciding that she needed a change. “I was working as a registrar when the same position opened at the IMA, but there was opportunity for advancement,” she said. With career growth in mind, she took the position at the 660,000 square foot Indianapolis Museum of Art facility—one of the largest in the country–as the chief registrar in 2007. “Having the historic home aspect was really exciting to me, too.” She was promoted to deputy director within three years.

“The registration department basically registers all the artwork coming in and out of the museum. This includes managing the logistics, insurance, customs and crating of the items in terms of how they arrive to other museums,” she said. The IMA lends over 50 pieces of artwork to other museums each year and borrows art from other museums to augment the collections at the IMA. “I’ve toured all over the world installing exhibitions.”

“When Charles Venable became the director and CEO, he gave me more responsibilities and made a lot of really great, positive changes and asked me to take on facilities management.” {QUOTE SOON}

Haigh is responsible for 15 buildings on the museum’s grounds. “If it needs a new roof, that’s my responsibility. If it needs a new boiler, that’s up to me,” she said. “The curator determines what is in the buildings; I care for the objects and conserve them.”

Haigh’s job description combines collections and facilities management, still a rare position for women in American museums. “Facilities management and operations is typically a male dominated field because you need to know a lot about HVAC and electrical functions,” she said.  “Because I had worked in collections management, where environmental controls are key, I learned a lot on the job so it was a pretty easy transition for me.”  Haigh enjoys the problem-solving aspects of her job. She’s applied the same organizational skills she uses as a collections and exhibitions manager to the facilities management aspect of her job. “I now have a work order system in place that wasn’t here before.”

Haigh encourages women to pursue facilities management. She credits having a great team around her for support. “I learn something from them every day—you need a good team to do the job well.”

About Katie Haigh

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Education: University of Cincinnati; Art history

Family: Two children, Madeleine, 15 and Ryan, 10

Vacation: Horseback riding in Brown County, Chicago for the weekend

Dream Cars exhibit

 Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas open just in time for racing season on May 3. Haigh will oversee getting the cars into the IMA. The exhibition features rare and unique concept cars from the early 1930s to the 21st century from top names in the automobile field. Go to www.imamuseum.org/exhibition/dream-cars-innovative-design-visionary-ideas to learn more about the exhibit.

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