Anna Adamek | Curator

Anna Adamek


Natural Resources and Industrial Design at the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation

Sector: Hospitality and Tourism, Technology

Location: ON

Education: University

Type: Career Profile


Business & Economics, English & Language Arts, History & World Studies, Social Sciences

Careers, Museums, Technology

Anna Adamek | Curator
Anna Adamek Curator
I am motivated by

I believe that it is important to preserve our technological past. Technology changes our lives so much. Think of how electricity or information technology has changed our society: They changed how we interact with each other; they change the environment in which we live. An office without lights would be very different, your work hours would be very different without artificial lighting. I truly believe that technologies have such an important place in our lives that we need to preserve inventions and innovations in order to understand that interaction between technology and society. I think that belief motivates my work.

I do want to pass on this information to the public. I’d like to facilitate that conversation in society. I don’t want to say that I want to educate people, because there are people who know more about education than I do, but as a Museum I think we have a role of facilitating conversation about technology and society.

I am motivated by
My career path is

I often say that my career path is not very typical, but I was on a panel last year in Manchester with other curators of science and technology museums from Europe and we all started by saying that exact sentence, so maybe it is typical in that sense. I came to Canada with a degree in literature, not very useful in another country with another language, believe me. I got another degree in library science and I started to work at the library at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and from there I moved to the Canada Science and Technology Museum. While in the library, I decided I was more interested in curatorial work so I went back to university and got my Masters degree in history of science and technology. I then moved to work as an assistant curator for about eight years and then became a curator.

My career path is
My advice to others

Identify what it is you want to do and then go for it. Don’t wait for the position to open for you, don’t wait for a job posting. Talk to people, make sure people in your dream job know this is where you want to work. Networking is important. I would add that for a position in a national museum, you have to be bilingual.

My advice to others
How I affect people's livesMy job affects people’s lives through its educational component. Education is part of the Corporation’s mandate; we strive to increase scientific and technological literacy through the national collection. We first try and understand how technology and society are interconnected and then we share this with the public. There is also the fact that, at the Museum, we choose to preserve certain technologies. We can’t preserve everything; we need to decide what is important to keep for future generations. For example, I could look at different engines and decide that a steam engine is something that is definitely important and worth preserving. I could also choose to preserve parts of an electrical system since electricity completely changed our lives and artifacts attesting to this are vital to the collection. We preserve these old objects for researchers to come study them and understand them. But we’re also trying to preserve what’s happening now so that we will impact how our society is seen in the future. The artifacts we are preserving now will still be in the collection a hundred years from now so that in the future, a researcher could come and see that piece of technology and learn about the inventor, the society, etc. That’s a huge responsibility and we take it very seriously.
How I affect people's lives
Outside of work I

I like hiking, climbing, running and travelling. I do quite a bit of travelling around the world; my goal is to go to every continent. I’ve been to Europe and North America so far, so I still have a few to go.

Outside of work I
What I do at work

As a curator at a national museum, I build a national collection in science and technology that depicts the transformation of Canadian society. I also work to increase scientific and technological literacy, to engage the public to explore how technology has changed Canadian society, and how Canadian society changed technology.

What I do at work varies, sometimes I do research: I read a lot to learn about new technologies, I try to understand how technologies work, how they are impacted by people that use them and how their designs came about. Other times I focus on collecting. When I collect technologies I am in the field: I could be in a camp in Northern Alberta or I could be in somebody’s basement looking through what they have; it all depends on where the artefacts are. I often need to go see artefacts to assess if they are significant to Canada’s history and to prepare the case for why we should acquire them for the collection. I then arrange to bring them to the Museum.

When I work on exhibitions, I work as part of a team. This team chooses the objects and messages of the exhibition and develops the interactive experiences (such as computer screens, educational games for children, etc.) we want to include. When the artifact selection is complete and the interactives are designed, the team will test the concept with Museum visitors. Finally, the exhibition is fabricated. This work is very hands-on and creative. I also belong to various networks. I stay in touch with people in industries because I need to understand how they work. For example I might work with a mining association to understand where they are coming from and the significance of mining to Canada. I collaborate with all kinds of partners, associations, groups and technical experts.

What I do at work
About me

I was born/grew up in: Kraków, Poland

I now live in: Ottawa, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: My first degree was in literary studies and linguistics, much more connected to language than technology. I left Poland in 1989 when Communism was falling, came to Canada and then got a degree in History of Technology at the University of Ottawa.

About me

When I was

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Foreign languages
  • History
  • Industrial Arts
  • Literature and English
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Other: Interpreting to the public
  • Other: Communications
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Felt at home in the outside, natural environment
  • Was really creative
  • Didn't really care about grades
  • Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best by doing
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things

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