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Dawn stands next to an antique well at left; at right she poses in front of a 17th century wall hanging at Hearst Castle

Alumna is a Museum Technician at Hearst Castle

Born and raised in Connecticut, Dawn Michals (pictured above at left and at far right) moved to Southern California in 1970. After studying Fashion Design at FIDM in the mid-1970s, Dawn went on to receive a degree in City and Regional Planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has worked at Hearst Castle for more than 20 years. As the iconic historic estate prepares to reopen its doors on May 11, 2022, we caught up with Dawn to learn more about her journey. 

What have you been up to since your days at FIDM? I worked in the medical field until the 1990s and eventually went back to school to become an architect. At that time I needed a few more credits and the school had a paid internship for class credit to work on textile conservation at Hearst Castle. So I applied, and that's how my 22-year career started. I have worked with world-class textile conservators and on priceless textiles. I am going to retire in a month, and I will miss it greatly.

What does your role as a museum technician entail? Well, fortunately for me being a tech at a state facility is like the perfect job. Unlike the curator, we are more hands-on. This job covers the care of the whole museum's collection management program. We protect the museum collection by monitoring climate, pest control, and agents of deterioration such as air quality, handling, light, et cetera. We are in charge of every piece of the collection from velvet vestments from the 17th century to the Roman mosaics and marble statues in the gardens.  

How did FIDM help prepare you for your career? I have looked back and all that I learned in the almost two years of FIDM has been useful, from hand-sewing to working on a sewing machine to even pattern making. I mostly want to say it isn't about how you think it will turn out. Education can lead to other avenues that are so important. Keep an open mind and be flexible, but that doesn't mean to give up dreams. Maybe in my next life I will be a costume designer for Cirque du Soleil!

Learn more at hearstcastle.org

Categories:  Fashion Design Alumni