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Interview with Robert Perantoni, OEC Exhibits Specialist in Fabrication

Q: Can you describe what you do here at OEC?
A: When I first started at OEC, I was an exhibits specialist for years on the bench. I built display cases, ran moldings, and occasionally helped with crating. Over the years, I acquired administrative duties and after a series of leadership changes, I became the acting Fabrication unit supervisor in April 2003. Last year I was reassigned, returning to the bench part-time while continuing to perform some administrative tasks and working installations.

Q: How long have you been working at OEC? How did you get started here?
A: I have been at OEC since April 1984. I started in a three-month position that has led to twenty-four years of work. My first project was the crating of Treasures of the Smithsonian Institution, a traveling exhibit that opened in Scotland. Several OEC staff got to work on the installation in Edinburgh!

Q: What kind of training did you have before coming here?
A: I actually received my B.A. from the University of Vermont in geology. After several years of tech work at the U.S. Geological Survey, I started helping a friend on weekends in his high-end antique restoration shop in Purcellville, VA. This part-time effort turned into a four-year full-time job, which prepared me well for my SI position. It’s interesting how many OEC people formally studied something other than what they’re doing now. Many of us have “fallen into” our positions.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job? The most challenging?
A: I enjoy the variety of tasks I do here. There is always something different that I’m working on, which keeps life interesting. I’d say the commute is the hardest part; there’s really nothing I dislike about the job per se.

Q: Have you had a favorite project so far?
My favorite project was an installation we did in 1987 at the National Museum of American History for Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) called Hollywood: Legend and Reality. The exhibit featured famous movie props, including Sam’s piano from Casablanca, a miniature King Kong used to film the original movie, the alien spaceship model from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Marilyn Monroe’s billowing dress from The Seven Year Itch. That was a fun project!

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