Kate Herlihy '08, the current curatorial assistant at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, recognized her passion for art history midway through her academic career.

"It wasn't until the my sophomore year that I took my fist class—Associate Professor of Art Susan Wegner's Baroque—and it felt really right," said Herlihy. "I had this realization that classes—that my academic experience—should have been like this all along."

"It was how incredibly visual it was," Herlihy added. "Everything clicked and I realized that this was what and how I needed to be learning."

Herlihy developed a particular interest in and passion for Islamic art and architecture.

"The spring of my sophomore year I took Professor Perkinson's Art of the Three Faiths and fell in love with the modern aesthetic of Islamic art, coupled with its deep religious significance," she said. "I became very engaged in studying both the cultural and religious contexts that were highly ingrained in Islamic art."

At the same time, Herlihy became concerned with transforming her passion for art history into a profession. This interest was inspired by an art class Herlihy took with Associate Professor of Art Linda Docherty titled Art and Life, in which students were asked to work directly with objects in the museum and, eventually, to design an exhibit.

"We worked really, really hard," said Herlihy. "We researched everything, we wrote everything, and I loved how hands on it was, how it was completely driven by us."

"I just remember having this moment when I realized that it—designing exhibits—was something that I could really love to do," she added. "Professionally I mean, this molding of the way people look at and understand things...a control of vision. I loved this idea of people being guided by museums in a way that was beautiful and fun and educational all at the same time."

While approaching these issues in an academic setting, Herlihy began to look for internships and fellowships in museums and galleries.

"Retrospectively, it's interesting to look at my understanding of the 'art scene' at that time in my life," Herlihy said. "At the time, I didn't really know what the difference was between galleries and museums, really I just understood them broadly as places where you could go and see art."

For her first post-Bowdoin job, Herlihy interned at the Pucker Gallery, a contemporary art gallery on Newbury Street in Boston.

"I started work right away after graduating," Herlihy said. "It was very different than I expected—but also a wonderful first experience. Coming into it, I was very much in the mindset of art being used for educational purposes, and walking into the gallery world I quickly realized that the agenda here was simply to sell art."

"Working as an art salesperson was a hard step for me, but I did take away some very important pieces," she added. "I loved working with the artists, getting to know them. I also gained an understanding that you had to really believe in the work that you were representing."

That spring, Herlihy contemplated switching from the gallery scene into the museum scene—a distinction of which she had become increasingly aware during her first gallery experience.

In switching paths, Herlihy applied for and obtained the position of Curatorial Assistant in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in March of 2009.

"I knew I was ready for this transition," Herlihy said. "There is nothing wrong with gallery work—they are just such different paths. Pucker is a wonderful gallery, but I really wanted to return to that educational purpose, a more contextual relationship with the art I was working with."

"That was my major motivation in seeking the position as curatorial assistant at Bowdoin," she added. "I really loved the educational aspect of it. Having had such a positive experience as an art history major at Bowdoin, I knew how much room for collaboration there was between faculty, students and the museum. I just knew this job would be the exact direction I wanted to go in—and it has fulfilled, and continues to fulfill, all of those expectations."

"Perhaps what's most wonderful about my job here is that there's a rhythm, but there's no day-to-day pattern," Herlihy said. "It can make you feel like you're running—running with some pace—but you always feel like you're moving forward, that you're never in a rut. Whether it's making labels, speaking with professors, working with students, there is a lot of self direction and decision making that I really enjoy. Also, as a result of the trickle down effect that museums have, what I'm working on is very much dependent upon what show the museum is putting up at the time."

"Beginning at the museum last spring was also a pivotal moment in the history of the museum and a really great time to get involved in the art scene at Bowdoin," added Herlihy. "Although I wasn't really in school for the old museum, its been amazing to be so involved in the new museum's opening as well as the new relationship that the museum has with the campus and the Brunswick community as a whole."

"The museum is really trying to have a bigger role in student life on campus and become a resource for students and faculty. We're trying to bring more events to the museum and we've already gotten so much support," she said.

Herlihy remains unclear about her career plans upon leaving the Walker Art Museum.

"What I can say, though, is that while I was at Bowdoin, I had a very narrow idea of what a career in art and art history could look like. Already, I've grown to realize that, while its important to specify what it is you love, its also important to broaden the spectrum of things you can see yourself doing," Herlihy said. "I've realized what I love is the writing and the ongoing educational aspect of art—for so long I've been narrowly focused about how I see myself pursuing those interests and I realize I need to remind myself to take steps back and reevaluate from time to time. There are an unending amount of careers out there—so many interesting and unique ways to pursue my love for art and its history."