Travis Roxlau ’88 grad collections director at Holocaust museum
After graduating from St. John high school in 1988, I attended John Carroll University to pursue an education to become an high school history teacher. I have always had an interest in history and I thought that becoming a teacher would give me the ability to study events of the past and share that interest with others.
During my junior year I had the opportunity to work with one of my history professors on an independent study program at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. I worked with the curator of the museum on finalizing the installation of a major exhibition on the history of Euclid Avenue, a boulevard in Cleveland that was home to more than 250 industrialists who made Cleveland one of the preeminent cities of the 19th century. The experience set me on a different career path that I really didn’t know existed.
I spent the following two summers working at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. While working in the registrar’s office and the conservation labs I began to discover that there were a number of career paths in the museum profession. Because of those experiences and the encouragement of several of my history professors, I pursued a master’s degree in Museum Studies with a focus on Collections Management and an academic concentration in American Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
While I was at George Washington I began working for the yet-to-be completed United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This part-time, not to exceed sixth months position has turned into a more than 17 year career at the museum. I have worked in the registry of Holocaust survivors, the archives, collections management and I am currently the director of collections services, the division within the office of collections that has oversight for the physical and legal care of the museum’s collections. I work with a team of registrars, collections managers, and conservators on preserving and making accessible the collections.
The museum holds more than 50 million pages of documentation; 13,000 objects; 83,000 photographs; 10,000 oral histories; 1,000 hours of moving images; and an 86,000 volume library all collected to document and teach about the unprecedented tragedy of the Holocaust.
While growing up in Delphos I never thought I would end up in Washington, D.C., working for a museum, especially a museum with such a powerful mission. Many times I think back to junior religion class where we spent a semester studying world religions with Sister Mary Valerie. Learning about other faiths and beliefs exposed me to the world’s cultural and religious diversity and the necessity of respecting those differences. My catholic education at St. John’s and John Carroll prepared me well to work in a setting where hatred and discrimination are faced head-on daily.
If you happen to be in D.C. and would like to visit the museum, please send me a note at [email protected]. I always enjoy visits from home. Free timed passes for the permanent exhibition are required from March-August. For further information about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, please visit our website at www.ushmm.org.