ASPA Member Highlight – Helanna Gessner, Administrative Coordinator, Diefenbaker Canada Centre

Written by Karen E. Mosier

Helanna Gessner has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Archaeology & Classical Medieval & Renaissance studies from the University of Saskatchewan completed in 2016 and a Masters in Museum Studies through the University of Leicester in 2018. She recently started working on campus in May of 2019 at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre as an Administrative Coordinator.  

Helanna’s duties are to provide support between the Curator and the Program Manager, and to liaison with the Executive Officer, who does all the planning for the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. She also does bookings for programs and develops events for the Centre. The Diefenbaker Canada Centre provides educational programs to schools in and around Saskatoon in alignment with the curriculum (e.g., Social Studies) for students from kindergarten to Grade 6. In addition, campus tours and gallery tours are available to the public. Helanna is also responsible to train, mentor, and oversee the duties of the student staff at the Centre.

Helanna has a fascination with history and especially museums. She loves that her role is to educate people and help them engage with their history. Museums are her passion project. She believes, “This is the perfect job for me. When people take away something from their visit to the museum and they remember it or share it with other people, this is what makes my job so meaningful.” Helanna was the 2019 recipient of the Young Professionals Award from the Museum Association of Canada.  

Helanna credits her BA in Archaeology & Classical Medieval & Renaissance studies and her Masters in Museum Studies as a valuable investment in her current position. The knowledge of how the museum works, how the collections work, and how to engage people with the museum and history is very beneficial.

Helanna appreciates the benefits available to all ASPA members and especially the sense of security that these supports give her. In particular, she appreciates her professional development funds. She has used her APDA funds to go to several Museum Association of Saskatchewan workshops, with the credits from these sessions going towards her community museum studies. She also values that ASPA members can take leaves to try out other new positions so that opportunities for career advancement are not missed. For example, Helanna has taken a leave from her current position to fill an interim role as the “Curatorial Collections & Exhibits Manager” until February 2020, which she is enjoying immensely.   

Helanna suggests that all ASPA members “take advantage of all the benefits that ASPA membership has to offer”. She continues, “Research it. Read the ASPA collective agreement. In my case, I simply wasn’t aware of all the benefits and opportunities available to me as an ASPA member until I took the time to investigate”.                                        

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