2020 Millennial on the Move: Jaclyn Spainhour

by CoVaBizMag

Jaclyn Spainhour

30, Museum Director with Hunter House Victorian Museum, Norfolk


Business and Civic Involvement:

Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach Member; Victorian Society in America Vice President; tHRive Young Professionals Member; Virginia Association of Museums Leadership and Diversity Fellow and Member; South Hampton Roads Museums Forum Vice President

Jaclyn Spainhour-Millennials on the Move

What is something that makes you stand out professionally?

Usually, my age is the immediate quality that stands out. I often attend meetings and conferences wherein I am the only person under 40 serving as a senior-level manager in the museum field. I believe my most valuable qualities are visionary leadership, strategic thinking, compassion and adaptability.

Who or what keeps you motivated or inspires you?

My motivation for success is two-fold. First, I am a mom to a son with autism, and I want to show him that the museum world is fit for all types of people. Most of my extracurricular activities relate to him in some way, from my recent published book to the training I offer the museum community. My other motivation is to explain millennials as a generation to the world. There are so many misconceptions about our generation, and I am on a mission to dispel those myths permanently.

Tell us about an accomplishment that you’re proud of.

My most recent accomplishment was one that I created on a whim, and that was my 2019 book, Museums and Millennials: Engaging the Coveted Patron Generation. One day while on a walk, this concept of helping museums understand how to engage my age group popped into my head and the outline basically wrote itself. I submitted it to Rowman and Littlefield in January and the book was published in October. It was my second book, but my first by such a major publisher, which made it both thrilling and terrifying.

How do you feel your industry can best respond to the effects of COVID-19?

Museums are doing everything they can to continue to stay afloat at this time, including shifting gears to virtual programming and an expanded online presence. I think the places that will do well are those that continue to put human faces to the nonprofits they represent. My staff and I are proud of the little family of volunteers, interns, members and patrons we have established over the years. We strive to put names to faces and engage with our patrons on a more personal level, and I think that relationship-building will be the key to long-term success in the museum field.

What new idea or development are you excited about in Coastal Virginia?

Can downtown Norfolk get a grocery store already? Please, I am begging you! No, seriously, I have heard so much talk about this that I am wishing it into existence and will be one of the first in line if it actually comes to fruition. On a more serious note, it would be wonderful to find a way to better expand our public transit in the region to help the economy, environment and build better communities.

What’s the most important aspect you look for in a workplace?

Honest, trust-driven relationships. I firmly believe I have one of the best jobs in the world. I go to work every day with a family of people who care about the things which make me tick, and I work for a board of directors who believe in my leadership ability more than I thought possible. When things are going well, we celebrate together; when things are not, we solve those problems together. Relationships built on honesty and trust are key to a successful workplace.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?

I would absolutely be a counselor of some kind. My colleagues will jokingly tell you that I am the best mental health advocate, but it isn’t all a joke. I struggle with anxiety and have experienced postpartum depression, and I am open about those struggles to help those I know and care for to seek the help they need. I also enjoy being a mentor and think I could have made a great career counselor.

What’s your favorite spot to relax in Coastal Virginia?

Good food and excellent service are my criteria for relaxation. I absolutely love Cure Coffeehouse and all of the other little coffee shops in Norfolk. But the most honest answer I can give is that I am a member of the "ladies who lunch" crowd and literally live at Freemason Abbey Restaurant. I may or may not have cycled through their frequent diner rewards program twice.

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