For most people, being caught alone inside a small, unguarded pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt, would be a terrifying experience. However, when Amy Barron found herself in this scenario, she had the time of her life.
A museum curator and archeologist, Barron had been digging in Israel for the summer before she took a quick trip to Egypt. She ventured into the tomb alone, deliberately avoiding a nearby tour group.
After some exploring, she heard the group pack up their things and exit the tomb, closing the large stone slab and leaving her all alone. She remained there for about half an hour, until she heard the stone slab open again.
She then jumped out, scared the tour group and quickly walked out before any security staff knew what happened.
“I had sort of an evil sense of humour,” she said.
Barron is currently teaching at Fleming College. She has been working in this field for over 30 years, dividing time between museum work and academic teaching.
Despite later becoming an archeologist, Barron originally graduated high school with only math and science credits. She initially pursued a degree in chemistry and then biology.
However, during her time at the University of Guelph she mistakenly took the wrong math class and in order to graduate she was forced to take a history of art course.
Barron described this moment as “being sucked into the dark side.”
She loved art and history and although she took science for two more years, she kept taking art and history courses and graduated with a bachelor of arts, rather than a degree in science.
She then enrolled at the University of Toronto for ancient languages. She switched over to archeology because she said the best way to integrate science and history is through archeology.
She pursued a PhD in history and archeology with a focus on the Middle East and began volunteering at museums around the Greater Toronto Area while also doing field work.
Barron thrives on chaos and finds excitement in the unpredictability of her work life. Considering almost all her work is contract work, this has worked out well for her.
She is also enjoyable to work with. One of her colleagues, Kathleen Vahey, said that Barron gives both “the perfect amount of guidance” but also the freedom to be creative.
“As an employee, I always felt supported and that I could come up with ideas myself and get advice from her when needed. Anyone who has the opportunity to learn from her should consider themselves lucky, I know I do. I am incredibly grateful that I not only get to call her a mentor but a friend as well.”
Her husband, Scott Robinson, works a normal nine to five job which has allowed Amy to be incredibly flexible in her life.
Taking on as little or as much work as she wanted, this freedom allowed her to be very involved in the lives of her two daughters, while still working at museums and going to school for a PhD.
Another adventure of Barron’s was when she was in China, and she learned about a tai chi sword from a person who “looked to be about 150.”
She would leave the little village she was staying at and walk up the mountains to where the instructor lived. For a week, they practised tai chi sword every morning for two hours.
The instructor did not know any English, so he used a piece of chalk and would break down each basic move into steps.
Whenever he wanted Barron to perform a move he would point to a number and she would have to remember which move corresponded to which number. She described it as being “very Zen and weird.”
“If you’re going to do that kind of thing, it’s kind of cool,” she said.
After many years of doing field work and working with seven different museums over 20 years, she made a career shift in 2020.
Fleming College offered her a full-time position running the museum studies course as well as running the whole program. She then fully committed to museum studies and hasn’t been in the field for a few years.
Still, she never lets too much time pass without an adventure.
“When travelling with Amy there is rarely a beach and a margarita,” her husband said.
Despite all the crazy adventures and being “volun-told” to go anywhere on the globe, he has always been proud of everything Barron has done.
“She keeps us on our toes, and we have enjoyed it all. I have been dealing with her shenanigans for 25 years and I can’t wait to see what she gets us into in the next 25 years,” he said.
Barron has no shortage of adventures ready to go, including trips to Australia and Antarctica.
“The thing I am most addicted to in life is travel,” she said. “I think everyone should get a chance to go everywhere and see the world. The world would be a better place if everyone could spend more time to realize we are just the same.”