New Coit Museum of Pharmacy & Health Sciences director ready to share and expand reach of the museum’s unique collection.
A celebration of the 75th anniversary of the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy peaks in late October with the grand opening of the Coit Museum of Pharmacy & Health Sciences on Homecoming Weekend. Leading that effort is newly hired museum director Alexis Peregoy.
Peregoy was the associate archivist for the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography for the past six years. She has a long background in collection development, preservation, acquisitions and space planning.
Health Sciences Connect caught up with Peregoy to learn more about her new role.
How did you become interested in archives?
It isn’t the most interesting story, but I always had an interest in museums and the desire to work in a cultural heritage or collecting institution. As an undergraduate, I did not have much exposure to archives and primary source materials until I started interning at the Toledo Museum of Art. There, I learned about collection stewardship responsibilities, as I spent the year digitizing slides and photographs of the museum’s glass collection. After that experience, I immediately decided I wanted to complete a graduate program so I could work in the museum field.
What excites you about archival work?
The most exciting thing about archival work is the mystery. Every collection is vastly different from the next one. There is never a clear-cut answer on how to steward a collection; my answer is always, “It depends.” You never know what you will encounter in archival collections – it isn’t always what you would expect, like manuscripts, correspondence and photographs. I’ve had dentures, death masks, human remains and even severed fingers in a collection. Now, with stewarding this new collection, I can say I have worked with antique apothecary jars and 100-year-old chewed gum!
How did your previous experience at the Center for Creative Photography shape you?
The Center for Creative Photography has an international reputation with a small team making it all happen. Collaboration and teamwork are integral parts of the day-to-day work at the center, which has allowed me to foster and build relationships across campus. As the center is located on the main campus, it instilled an understanding of serving the student community, as well as local, national and international communities.
What interested you about the Coit Museum director role?
The Coit Museum is currently in a fantastic position, primed for success. The museum now has a centralized home, with permanent installations and interactive kiosks featuring the museum’s most treasured collection objects. The collection is incomparable to other pharmacy collections and provides a wealth of opportunities for interdisciplinary discovery and exploration. Additionally, the museum was renamed to include and expand upon health sciences as an additional collecting area. Historically, the museum has always operated as a one-person show, and I am hopeful that as the museum gains visibility and public interest, we will be able to continue to further develop the museum and steward its collections according to best practices.
What goals do you have for the Coit Museum of Pharmacy and Health Sciences?
First, we must establish the museum’s hours so the campus community and public can visit the museum, either by walk in or scheduling an appointment for a more in-depth tour. In addition to supporting students through internships, I am hoping to build a docent volunteer program, which will allow those who are interested in pharmacy, health sciences or museums in general to lead tours and assist with special projects. Additionally, the museum collection needs continual stewardship and oversight, including the disposal of hazardous materials, cataloging records and locations in the database, and overall preservation work. I will also focus on enhancing the overall discoverability of, and access to, the museum’s collections. This will include a new website, digital and temporary or rotating exhibitions, collaborative projects with faculty, staff, and other campus repositories, and the development of school outreach programs.
What is your vision for the visitor experience at the museum?
First and foremost, I want visitors to feel welcome at the museum. Visitors should be able to walk in during the museum’s public hours and peruse the exhibitions on their own, or they may request an appointment for a reserved tour time in advance. The new museum space has a wealth of information on display, including historical objects from Disneyland’s Upjohn Pharmacy collection, a pharmacy counter display, and installations featuring interactive kiosks and video screens. The overall goal is that visitors will be able to step back in time to discover historical objects while also learning about contemporary practices in pharmacy and health sciences.
What is one thing you want people at UArizona Health Sciences to know about you?
I am eager to collaborate with faculty, staff and students on future museum activities. You can find me in the new museum space or in the Pharmacy administration suite on the third floor of Drachman Hall. Please stop by and say hello!