Anthony Howell (Social Science, 2002) has been working as a Zoology Curatorial Technician at the Redpath Museum for the last 16 years.

What started as a volunteer position while he was still pursuing his undergraduate studies turned into a rewarding career working directly with some of the museum’s most interesting specimens and zoological collections.

When Howell first started at Champlain in 1999, he was pursuing science and had a particular interest in biology. There was just one problem.

“I could not get through calculus. I tried twice and I did not pass twice,” he recalled. “I was given the option of switching into social sciences.”

It was a good thing he did because in that program, Howell discovered the field of anthropology which he felt an immediate connection to.

“Switching to Social Science might have been the best thing for me. It opened the world of anthropology for me,” he said.

After graduating from Champlain, Howell went on to complete a degree in Anthropology from Concordia University where he did a specialization in human anthropology and evolution.

Toward the end of his bachelor’s, Howell was considering going on to do a master’s and wanted to gain some practical experience that might prove relevant to his future prospects.

“The only thing I could think of was working in museums,” he said.

It was around 2006-07 when Howell started spending a few lunch hours every week volunteering at the Redpath Museum located on McGill’s campus.

He was working and still in school, but those precious hours spent at the museum proved to be the start of something bigger.

“I was really excited to be a part of something,” he said. “The more I learned about the activity that museums undertake behind the scenes — the meat and potatoes of what museums actually do — I started to fall in love with working in museums.”

Howell described the timing as “serendipitous,” saying that a zoology technician position opened while he was there and he was encouraged to apply. He got the job and has been there ever since.

After 16 years at the museum, Howell is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the history of the museum, opened in1882 and billed as the oldest museum in Canada that was designed specifically to be a museum.

Howell noted that the museum has a great many type specimens collected from around Quebec, a paleontology collection that dates back 300 million years, and an incredible selection of minerals from Mont Saint-Hilaire.

“Saint-Hilaire is a mountain that has produced more unique minerals than anywhere else in the world. It’s world renowned. It’s really a treasure trove of minerology.”

Howell said the museum’s collections, which includes an impressive beluga whale skeleton discovered during excavation work on Papineau Boulevard at the beginning of the 20th century, is “very valuable, not commercially but academically.”

“The Redpath is a hidden gem tucked away in the city,” he added. “You can come here to learn about pretty much anything that you want to learn about.”

Howell’s advice for current Cegep students and recent grads: “My own career really started with getting my foot in the door and volunteering. If you’re young, coming out of school, try as much as possible. Volunteering is good for the soul, it’s good for the CV. Sometimes we like the idea of something and we don’t know if it could be a career for the rest of our lives. Never assume you know what you’re going to like. Experience what it’s really like to work in the field.”