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Sarah Swiderski, Cataloguing Assistant for McGill Visual Arts Collection

This week’s campus celebrity is someone whose passion for life is absolutely overwhelming. I’ve heard her talk with equal enthusiasm about writing English essays, travelling around Ireland with one of her besties and taking hour-long metro rides just to get outside the McGill bubble and explore this vibrant city. Sarah was recently hired to preside over the McGill Visual Arts Collection as a cataloguing assistant, which is the coolest opportunity for someone with her diverse and totally unique combination of interests. Read on to find out a little more about the position and her general outlook on study, work and life in Montreal.

Program & Year: U3, Double Major in History and English Cultural Studies with a Double Minor in Art History and East Asian Languages and Literature

Hometown: Dundas, Ontario

Katherine Rushby for HC McGill: Favourite class taken at McGill?

Sarah Swiderski (SS): Image and Text (ENGL 492) with Professor Sean Carney. We got the chance to read so many amazing graphic novels in this class and I was always excited to start the next one! I loved that this class allowed me to incorporate elements of my Art History and English background together in one medium. All around it was a really cool course.

HC McGill: Job title and job description?

SS: I recently started as a Cataloguing Assistant at the McGill Visual Arts Collection. I’m specifically working on the Jepson Collection with my co-worker and fellow Art History student, Masae Nakazono. The collection was donated by Dr. Joanne Jepson, a McGill alumnus in California. We are assisting with cataloguing the new acquisitions and translat[ing] any textual elements from Japanese to English, since a large portion of the collection is Japanese in origin.

HC McGill: Why did you want the job with McGill?

SS: When I heard about the new position opening at the McGill Visual Arts Collection I couldn’t imagine a job with a greater affinity to my areas of study. As an Art History and East Asian Languages and Literature double minor the prospect of having the opportunity to work with an array of beautiful Japanese art was very exciting. It seemed like the perfect fit!

HC McGill: Which parts of your McGill education do you feel have best prepared you for your new job?

SS: My studies in Japanese language over the past year are definitely a crucial asset. I started with First Level Japanese intensively last summer and continued on into this year. I have also been involved in the Cultural Department of the Japanese Student Association, which has involved, in part, the organization of a bi-weekly conversation club on campus which is conducted in Japanese. Meeting friendly native speakers on campus who are willing to put up with all my little questions has been an invaluable experience. My art history background in general has definitely been an asset as well.

HC McGill: What are you most looking forward to in your new work?

SS: I’m just so excited every time we get to open up a new piece of artwork from the Jepson Collection. We never know what to expect and it’s always something new and interesting. I’m especially eager to get to take a peek at the box marked ‘kimono’ that we are working our way up to.

HC McGill: What are your tips for maintaining some semblance of balance between academics, work, & leisure?

SS: I think this is the real lesson that everyone has to learn at McGill. I’ve worked full-time while in school full-time in the past, and it wasn’t the easiest situation for fitting in much of that ‘leisure’ category. I think the most important thing is to make sure that you know exactly what you are capable of achieving with your time and not taking on any more than that. It’s difficult sometimes at McGill, because everyone here [is a] hard worker who want[s] to achieve big things; but, sometimes, you need to breathe. You can’t put forth your best effort and achieve your best results without taking care of yourself first. Make time for that coffee to catch up with an old friend, make sure to get a good night’s rest instead of pulling an all-nighter at Cybertheque, take it easy and play a game of Euchre some nights here and there, or go see your friend’s band play at that local jazz bar. Everyone needs a little down-time to approach your work with positivity and energy

HC McGill: What do you wish you had more time for?

SS: Currently, I’m gearing up to watch a large portion of the friends I’ve spent the last four years with at McGill move on to new adventures while I finish up this crazy degree I’ve locked into. So, I wish I had a bit more time to spend with them; alas, there are essays and finals. “Family dinners,” are probably my favourite part of any week. I’d love to have time for more nights a week spent preparing a hearty meal with a good group of friends.

HC McGill: Tell me two things you’re planning to do in Montreal over the summer.

SS: One [is] Osheaga. I went for the first time last year and it was a stellar three days of music and sunshine. I can’t wait to be back there. Two: lots and lots of walking. As soon as the snow melts and the sidewalks are no longer dangerous, ice-concealing slabs of concrete I will be hoofing it all around this lovely island of ours. If it’s under an hour away and sounds interesting, I’m there: festivals, parks, markets and cafés. Oh, the cafés. There’s this nifty café-passport pre-paid coffee exploration card you can get in the summer that I heard about last year which I will probably use to guide my wanderings around the city. Bring on that positive-Celsius weather.


Photo credit to E. Shay, and H. Withers.

Katherine is entering her final year at McGill University, and very excited to be getting more involved with Her Campus again this year. She is a dancer who in her spare time enjoys musical theatre, drinking tea, and, according to loved ones: spending too much time on Pinterest. Currently studying History and English Literature, Katherine hopes to eventually pursue a career in some kind of editing.
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