Meet The Team | March 14, 2022

James M. Benavides, Senior Communications Specialist

James M. Benavides, Senior Communications Specialist

I got used to asking these questions to my co-workers over the past year, and similar questions to our docents. Looks like it’s my turn. – JMB

What were you working on just prior to lockdown? What were you doing when we started?

I remember I was just relieved we got the Asian Festival done the weekend before stay-at-home notices and mass event cancellations started.

Probably a week before we received the stay-at-home order, I was returning from a conference in the Dallas area. I had a few days in the office before I had scheduled two vacation days so I could work on one of the regular nonprofit organization events I participate in each year.

When did you get called back into the museum and what was the project? Give me a bit of perspective on what the project entailed.

 So much of what I do is based on people rather than location. My job is all about information, so adopting an at-home work modality was fine for me. I got used to using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other tools to check in with my contacts on projects and assignments. I was able to do interviews with docents, teammates and project partners on a computer or smart device.

Work-from-home meant that I wouldn’t need an office at the institute, or the cubicle I had at the library on Main Campus. I spent a few days at each, retrieving personal items, and preparing older notes and correspondence for archiving. It was kind of sentimental going through my stuff at the ITC and seeing what I had accumulated through years of great programs and exhibits – memories, battle scars, and trophies.

My visits to the institute and Main Campus came a bit more frequently as I worked with some of my teammates on their profiles for small feature stories in the ITC newsletter. There were occasions I needed a photo of someone in action, or something from the exhibit floor to accompany a story. I remember one assignment, I got called to the museum to assist a photographer capturing video footage and stills at the institute for a major project.

How often are you going to the museum now? (Are you going to the museum?)

Work-from-home has its ups and downs. I can spend time with my mother, who has certain needs, but I don’t get to see my co-workers in person very often. The ITC had brought on new employees in 2020 and I had only met them on Zoom, so the first time seeing any of them in person was a real occasion. It was wonderful when we decided to have a 2021 holiday pot luck, and I was proud to share some of my venison sausage from a successful hunting season.

What other projects and priorities have come up since?

I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work for both the institute and the library. I’m generating the institute’s monthly newsletter and coordinating with the provost’s office to provide updates on the 2068 initiative.

In speaking with some of my supervisors, we’ve determined that my role needs to evolve a bit more, given COVID and restrictions on museum programming for health and safety concerns. I love working with local media; it’s one of my primary duties. Under the circumstances, we haven’t had many opportunities to do that.

Like some of my co-workers I’ve been given the opportunity to create content for digital features on the ITC website, and I’ve been encouraged to play to my strengths. I’m starting to look at “Geek Culture” in San Antonio and across Texas.

I remember when we did the “Made in Texas” exhibit a few years back, I had provided items for the exhibit: samples of the Ultima video games Richard Garriott, a UT-Austin alum, had created. If I expand on that idea and tap into my contacts, I can get to people who’ve written scripts for Star Trek episodes, authors who’ve been published in the Star Wars: Legends books, the founder of a popular tabletop gaming company based in Austin, and anime distributors and video game companies based in Dallas. I’m looking forward to gathering and sharing these stories on things that have come out of the geek subculture and into the mainstream.

By James Benavides, Senior Communications Specialist