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Alumna Katie Orman making history with experience design


Kathryn Barnard, history alumna
Kathryn Barnard earned a Bachelor of Arts in History degree from ACU in 2010 and now works for a New York experience design firm.

When history major Katie (Barnard ’10) Orman was a sophomore at ACU, she decided she wanted to work in historical museums. For the next two years, she pursued that dream with the help of her professors, even creating her own film documentary for a military veterans’ museum. She learned oral interview methods, film editing, and the ethics of producing historical content for the public.

That focused training paid off. She is now a senior content designer for a New York-based experience design firm that works with cultural, corporate and real estate clients. ESI Design transforms places into experiences by weaving physical and digital worlds together to create immersive experiences. Kathryn’s experiences at ACU set the perfect stage for her work with a firm whose recent clients include Statue of Liberty Museum, eBay, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, Comcast, PNC Bank, Beacon Capital, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

After graduating from ACU, Kathryn completed an M.A. in Museum Studies at NYU. While there, she took elective courses in exhibit design and museum media while completing internships with the National September 11th Museum and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan.

During a stint working for the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., Kathryn received what she calls “a crash course in what it takes to run non-profits.” She subsequently joined Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), the largest museum design firm in the world. During her first three years at RAA, she took three museum projects from concept development to public opening. Two of those projects were in the Persian Gulf nation of Kuwait, which she visited 17 times to carry out research, conduct interviews and work with government stakeholders.

“I’m very proud of my work in Kuwait,” Kathryn said. “The region is struggling to build cultural infrastructure now, both for the economy, but also for jobs. There were very few history professionals, let alone museum professionals. The chance to discover stories and learn from a different culture was invigorating.”

Kathryn attributes much of her personal growth and maturation at ACU to her Study Abroad experiences in Oxford, Guatemala and China. Those experiences gave her confidence to move to New York City, and now through her work, to navigate the wider world.

– Robin Saylor

Aug. 23, 2021

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