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Cathy Blackbourn Named 2016 FIAA Outstanding Alumna

Submitted on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

cathy-blackbournAs a leader in museum education, visitor studies, program evaluation, and community engagement, Cathy Blackbourn (MMSt 1984) has been chosen as this year’s FIAA Outstanding Alumni Award recipient for 2016 — and will receive the prestigious honour at this year’s Faculty of Information Spring Reunion reception on Thursday, May 26.

“I am so honoured to receive this recognition and to have been nominated by Jenna Rose, who was a Museum Studies intern during my first summer at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. I will be sure to ‘pay it forward.’”

After carving out a three decade-long career, this will be Blackbourn’s last year working with the Museum Studies program at the Faculty of Information. “I would like to thank all the faculty and the tremendous iSchool staff who have been so generous with their wisdom and their professional and personal support. It was a privilege!”

Le Dieu Tran (MISt ’05), who chairs the FIAA Grants and Awards committee, says the group was impressed by Blackbourn’s “strong commitment to mentoring and developing the next generation of museums professionals, as well as her work in education and community engagement over the past 30 years.”

Cathy received her Master of Museum Studies from UofT in 1984, albeit in a very different program than when it joined the iSchool in 2006.

Blackbourn has been a sessional lecturer for the Museum Studies program’s internship course since 2014. “It has been a privilege to mentor these boundless students as they transition from excellent students to valued sector professionals. I have enjoyed sharing with them the wisdom and encouragement of many of my own wonderful colleagues and friends,” Cathy says.

She herself has been mentored throughout her career, and sees many benefits. For example, she says Jenna Rose is now a friend and colleague since she graduated from the iSchool.

For her part, Jenna says Blackbourn stands out in the Museum Studies field for her leadership and mentorship abilities.

When Cathy became the Professional Development Program Manager for the Ontario Museum Association, she was not only able to combine all of her professional interests and experience, but was able to use these skills to give back to her museum colleagues and those aspiring to the profession.

Blackbourn also worked as a Museum & Heritage Advisor for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport during its recent review of the Standards for Community Museums in Ontario. The result was improved performance evaluation, participant feedback and updating of the Standards themselves.

In her nomination, Rose describes Cathy’s countless achievements in museum practice, and her considerable influence on new generations of professionals.

“She has committed her career to providing guidance and leadership to emerging museum professionals. Cathy is one of those exceptional human beings who is capable of listening and offering guidance, and offering profound professional advice (along with a relevant list of resources and contact names off the top of her head),” Rose says in her letter. “Her reputation is unrivaled in the museum community. One can always spot Cathy at provincial and national conferences, as there is a long lineup of colleagues, friends, mentees, and students eager to talk to her.”

The awards are racking up for Blackbourn. At the end of last year, she was also recognized by the Ontario Museum Association with the Distinguished Career Award of Excellence.

The FIAA Outstanding Alumni Award is given to a graduate of the Faculty of Information for innovation or leadership in libraries, museum practice, or information management, professional organizations, publications/research activity, and the community at large. Recipients are possessed of characteristics that enable them to be innovators, leaders, mentors, researchers, or catalysts. These winners are alumni who have made a difference to the profession.

We will be presenting Cathy with the award at the Faculty of Information Spring Reunion reception on Thursday, May 26 at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (7 Hart House Circle, from 6 to 8 pm).

Congratulations Cathy!