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Catching up with Alumni

Interview with Jack Giblin, '86

by Amy Hunt, '12


Jack Giblin, '86, came to Juniata as a Forestry major, but left with a degree in History and Museum Studies. Thanks to the flexibility of the program, and professors like Earl Kaylor in history and Paul Heberly in archaeology, he was able to pursue numerous internships and independent studies, and prepare for a future at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA.

While a student at Juniata, Giblin completed a few interesting independent studies, which his advisor Craig Baxter highly encouraged. One, done with Earl Kaylor, explored the myth of the American Mountain Man. Another study involved the study of quilt patterns in the Juniata Valley. “I had this sort of crazy idea to look at the patterns of immigration and the patterns of migration of two different cultures in the Juniata Valley,” he said. “I wanted to do that comparing quilt patterns, and how they were exchanged between these two groups as they intermarried, and sort of show that these were not closed cultures, but, on the contrary, were somewhat open cultures, and exemplify that through the art of quilting.” Giblin’s study led to his receiving the E. J. Stackpole award that year. He also pursued numerous internships, working with small organizations, like the Huntingdon County Historical Society, as well as larger internships with the state of Pennsylvania.

Giblin today works for the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, which he described as the Army's premier history facility for archives and preservation of artifacts for soldier's stories. “Our job is to preserve the history of the American soldier,” he said. He originally came to the Center to help develop the curatorial projects, and eventually was hired as the chief curator. Three years later, Giblin became the director of education and visitor services, a position in which he serves as the “front door” to the Center. “I handle all intake of visitors,” he said, “all visitor programs and educational programs, all VIP visits, everybody from the President of the United States on down.”

Has his Juniata education helped him at all in his career, or in preparation for what he does today? “Let me put it to you this way: like most kids coming out of high school and entering college, I wasn't very organized,” he said. “The flexibility of the program at Juniata allowed me to work outside the box, and gave me a skill set that made me look more marketable in a very competitive field at that time for museum positions. Juniata’s history program has always been at the forefront of thought on how history applies to what we do today, and I think that has served me very well in my career so far.”

When asked if he had any advice to give to current or future Juniata history students, he said that students should not be afraid to take creative classes and to try new things. “You need to be able to expand your abilities and your program to where you're meeting the needs of a variety of different institutions.” Students also should not be afraid to actively pursue internships with professional-level organizations, and to look for them even in places that are not advertising positions. “Don't be afraid to go to a historical organization and say, ‘I'm here to help you, I want to do this as an internship. As long as you can meet the internship criteria, I'm willing to do just about anything to learn this business from you.’”