Alumni News

April 25, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Anthropology Alum Enjoys Eclectic Role at Owls Head Transportation Museum

Kathryn Pardo in the front seat of a1941 Stearman at the 2016 Wings & Wheels Spectacular summer air show.

Kathryn Pardo in the front seat of a 1941 Stearman at the 2016 Wings & Wheels Spectacular summer air show.

Kathryn (Byerly) Pardo ’06 is the Auction and Development Associate at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. She loves that her responsibilities are amazingly varied and varying!

Path to Current Career

After graduating with her B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Political Science from the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University, Pardo left for Yellowstone National Park, where she worked for a year as an ethnographic intern for the Tribal Liaison. She stayed in the park after her internship to guide horseback tours and pack trips for a summer. Then she went to Morocco to teach English as a second language through the Thaqafat Association. Afterward, she attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for her Master’s in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on contemporary political anthropology of indigenous cultures in North Africa, then spent the next few years wandering about the high desert of the American West, working for the National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Voices for Biodiversity,

Pardo ended up in the touristy, seaside town of Camden, Maine, working at an art gallery.

“For me, the hardest part about getting to where I am today was trying to decide where my passion was,” she explains. “I’ve always been a bit of a nomad, and to find something intense enough to keep my focus has always been a challenge.”

She found the answer at the Owls Head Transportation Museum where it is unique and ever-changing.

No day is like the last, and each day brings the chance of doing something she has never done before, whether driving a 100-year-old automobile, learning how to re-skin an airplane wing, or producing a promotional video for an auction vehicle. It’s never boring!

New England Auto Auction

For about nine months of the year Pardo is dedicated to the New England Auto Auction™, the premier collector car auction in New England.

For this event she does much of the background work, which is how she prefers it. Once the vehicles are secured, she photographs them, does the research about them, and writes biographies for their website and auction catalog.

She also manages the production of the catalog and all related media and marketing, organizes all of the paperwork, and archives any information that is relevant to the Museum’s mission.

This can include documentation on any of the rare vehicles that cross the block, such as an exceedingly rare 1907 Autocar Type IX Racer or even the 1975 Abbot-Downing Concord coach that set records in their 2016 auction, selling for more than $200,000.

Pardo driving a 1928 Ford Model A Phaeton during the 2016 New England Auto Auction™

Pardo driving a 1928 Ford Model A Phaeton during the 2016 New England Auto Auction™


In addition, she organizes shipping and arrival dates, identifies staffing and volunteer needs, manages the auction database, trains volunteers in registration and check-out procedures… anything and everything.

“I like to joke that my boss gets the cars and I make the auction work,” Pardo says.

This event is their biggest fundraiser, and last year they set a 39-year record for sales, grossing more than $3.1 million.

“It’s two days of bidding excitement,” she continues, “and it can get pretty intense when two or three people each decided they want the same vehicle. It’s a fast-paced, non-stop couple of weeks, but it is also incredibly fun.”

From Development Associate to Field Photographer

Once the auction excitement dies down, Pardo focuses on the Development Office.

In this role, she conducts donor research, helps maintain the museum’s database and runs queries, creates and edits their membership publications, and otherwise supports their annual membership and corporate sponsorship programs.

She also chairs the Development Committee, which helps identify and implement new fundraising projects, such as special evening events to provide people with closer looks at some of their favorite cars, new educational opportunities (to be announced!) or changing themes to the annual gala, the Barnstormer’s Ball.

Pardo introducing the B-25 bomber Axis Nightmare that came to Owls Head Transportation Museum for its 2015 Wings & Wheels Spectacular

Pardo introducing the B-25 bomber Axis Nightmare that came to Owls Head Transportation Museum for its 2015 Wings & Wheels Spectacular


Their organization has such a small staff that Pardo and most of her colleagues wear multiple hats; for example, she also helps out with social media, operates the admissions desk when needed, writes ads, takes photographs at events, and more.

Even in the “off season” in Maine, there is plenty to keep them all busy, especially as they plan for the upcoming event season.

The Best Parts

“My favorite part of the job is really the unique connection to history,” she says.

She gets to dress in period clothing at all the events (“I’ve always loved cosplay!”), which can range from World War II to Rockabilly to the Roaring 20s, depending on the event theme. She also gets to drive and/or ride in some pretty cool vehicles.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum is an operating museum, meaning most of their collection pieces actually drive or fly.

So last year Pardo learned how to drive a Ford Model T and caught a ride in a 1941 Stearman biplane. This year, Pardo learned to drive a 1928 Ford Model A, cruised around in a luxurious 1930 Packard Series 745, and she might even learn to drive an 1886 Benz replica, which is a bizarre “automobile” with what is basically a rudder instead of a steering wheel.

“Nothing here is static, and just seeing history coming alive makes this a pretty amazing place to work every day!”

But it hasn’t been all sunny days and clear skies. Like all museums in this economy, they have had to tighten their belts a bit.

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