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December 24, 2015

Philly@Work: National Liberty Museum's Meegan Coll

Meet the woman caring for NLM's precious glass collection

Lifestyle Museums
03-121815_Meegan_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Coll unwraps a commissioned piece of glass art by longtime friend and contributor to the museum, Milon Townsend or Rochester, NY

Ever wonder about the guy who sits down the hall from you in the office or the woman who works at your favorite bar or coffee house? How about the parking lot attendant or dog walker in your neighborhood?

Welcome to Philly@Work, spotlighting some of the smartest, most interesting, funny and downright eclectic people who work hard for their money. We want to find out what makes Philly’s working class special – with great tips from locals about where to eat, shop, catch a band and kick back after closing time.

The Flame of Liberty, a sculpture by famed- artist, Dale Chihuly is the centerpiece of the National Liberty Museum. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

Meegan Coll, 49 

Director of Glass at the National Liberty Museum

Neighborhood where I live: Schuylkill/Grey’s Ferry

Neighborhood where I work: Old City

What I do: I manage the Glass Art Department at the National Liberty Museum (NLM) on Chestnut Street in Old City, and its annual fundraiser, the Glass Auction & Gala, which happens every fall.

Meegan Coll, Director of Glass at the National Liberty Museum. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

Stuff I work on: I oversee the museum’s glass art collection, works for exhibitions and the auction and gala. The Glass Auction is the NLM’s most important fundraiser. We feature a prestigious collection of work representing the most renowned artists in the glass art world, as well as many promising newcomers, many of them local. 

Its proceeds fund the NLM’s Young Heroes Outreach Program (YHOP), which is a yearlong educational initiative for students in fourth through eighth grades. Today, in partnership with 12 Title I public schools throughout the Philadelphia area, this program empowers at-risk students to become responsible civic leaders. YHOP engages [and encourages] youth to identify real-life social problems in their school or community and supports them in finding practical solutions to those issues. After the students complete the program’s original curriculum, they establish a Young Heroes Club to plan and execute a Community Action Project (of their choosing) that will bring about long-lasting change in their school or community. 

A regular morning for me: I’m a competitive Dragon Boat outrigger and marathon canoe racer, so I’m usually on the water at 5:30 a.m. paddling a boat.  

What I like most about my job: I work with an exceptional team of people who are dedicated to the museum’s mission to promote leadership and good character; diversity and inclusion; peaceful conflict resolution; and civic engagement. I get to meet and collaborate with amazingly talented glass artists and be around some of the most original art in the world.  

The hardest part of my job: Glass is fragile and each piece is precious. If anything breaks, I actually feel like I’ve lost a friend.

Some of my favorite glass artists: That’s a hard question to answer because glass can take on many forms, and there are so many techniques. One artist may be a flame worker who makes very figurative work, while another may make something very abstract. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the most-talented artists in the world, many of them of right here in Philadelphia. I love the work of Christina Bothwell (her work is dreamlike; she uses cast glass and clay) and Shayna Leib. Her work reminds me of the bottom of the sea, with grasses flowing in the tide.

A cast glass sculpture by artist, George Bucquet entitled Harmony, left, and a Calligraphic Totem by artist, Lu Chim, right, are just two of more than 125 permanent pieces on display at the museum. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

Where I travel: Most recently, I traveled to Chicago for Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design fair. Some of the best work in 3D sculpture [are] featured there. I find that wherever I travel, there’s always an amazing connection to be made, whether it’s with an artist, a gallery or a museum.

Favorite lunch spots: I like to eat outside in the park across from the museum, but I’ve recently been visiting Freida, a café on Walnut Street. It’s a great space, and the food is fresh and delicious.

Other museums I like to visit: American Visionary Museum in Baltimore and The Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

In an unsuspecting backroom that has been sprinkled with packaging popcorn, a piece of art awaits to be photographed in the makeshift photo studio. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

Other things I like to do: I’m a paddling addict, so if I’m not at the museum, I’m on the water. This past summer I was selected for the Team USA Dragon Boat Senior Women’s team and competed in the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships.

What I like to do after work: If I’m not on the river in the morning, I’m on the river after work with my Dragon Boat team, the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix.

Something even my co-workers may not know about me: I started collecting glass a long time ago – Depression glass dinnerware from the 20s and vintage drinking glasses. I guess I’ve been into glass for a long time! I’m also a giant Elvis fan.

The best part about working in Philly: It’s my hood. I grew up here. I’m Philly girl – complete with the accent.