Park Profiles: Meet Barbara Forsyth!

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, One Park - One Team, Park Profiles

Barbara is the first ever Senior Manager of Collections and Registration at the Mingei International Museum. Her passion for the art of design and craft, and dedication to its preservation and organization has lead her towards working at her dream institution.

1.How did you first get involved with the Mingei International Museum?

I grew up in San Diego and first became familiar with the Mingei when I came home from college and went to see an exhibition on Niki de Saint Phalle. After my first visit, I said to myself if I ever live in San Diego again, I want to work at the Mingei! I did end up coming back, and began my “second act” (after taking a career hiatus when I had my children) working at the Mingei as a part-time Visitor Experience Associate and Volunteer Coordinator. This allowed me to get my foot in the door, and due to my background in Art History and previous experience in auction houses and cataloguing, I was able to work my way into working with the collections.  

2. What do you like most about working in collections?

Being able to work with the collections themselves and learn new things every day is what I enjoy most! The museum’s collections represent such a vast number of cultures, mediums, and time periods that every day brings new challenges. There’s never a dull moment. I have a huge passion for the collections at the Mingei, and being able to work towards making them as strong as possible is one of the greatest parts of the job!

3. What is the most challenging aspect when dealing with collections and registration of collections?

Many of the objects that come to the Mingei do not have a lot of provenance information, partly because many of the pieces were not considered traditional art, so we are constantly researching and doing detective work. Space is also a big issue, more specifically caring for objects properly within a limited amount of space.

4. Best advice when encountering a new situation at work?

Everyday is a new challenge at work, so embracing it is important! Take every opportunity to learn, network and communicate without fear, and be open to new things!

5. What do you like to do outside of work?

I really enjoy going to other museums, both here in San Diego and in Los Angeles, as well as everywhere I travel. I think it is important to see what our neighbors in the Park and other institutions are doing. I also love to spend time with my amazing family and friends, play and hear music, run, dance, and cook!

6. Favorite book, TV show, song?

My favorite books of this year have been the Neapolitan Novels series by Elena Ferrante, my favorite TV show of all time is Six Feet Under though I’m currently hooked on the new Twin Peaks and House of Cards. I can’t pick a favorite song, there are too many!

7. If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Probably a well taken care of house cat because mine have it pretty easy!

8. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

By the time I was a teenager, I had a hunch that I wanted to work in the art world.

9. What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?

As a shout out to the Mingei, I would say the Nikigator because I constantly see it bringing joy to people of all ages. I also love the running trails in Florida Canyon and Panama 66 for live music and drinks.