Deerfield Dispatch #8

Katie Garland (2nd from left in the front row) checks in one last time from the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship ProgramRead the previous volumes of the Deerfield Dispatch here. It sounds like it was a great summer. -JF

I am officially a graduate of the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program!  That feels so strange to say.  Since I last wrote, I finished writing my paper, presented and fielded questions about my research, and participated in a small commencement ceremony.  Then we loaded up a 15-passenger van and trekked up and down the east coast visiting museums from New England down through Virginia.

This blog post has been one of the most challenging for me to write.  How does one sum up a summer of intense study, but also plenty of fun, in a short blog post?  I tend to think in lists and numbers, so here are some of the highlights of my summer:

  • 9 weeks
  • 26 museums (Historic Deerfield, PVMA, Old Greenfield Village, Plimoth Plantation, Mayflower II, Old Sturbridge Village, Hancock Shaker, The Breakers, Marble House, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Strawbery Banke, Warner House, Orchard Hill, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, Library of Congress, Montpelier, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Victory Center, Winterthur Museum, East Side Tenement Museum, Kykuit House Museum).
  • 12 states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire,Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, D.C., Virginia).
  • 18 lectures on New England and the Civil War at the Dublin Seminar
  • 3 lectures on the Civil War as part of the Summer Lecture Series
  • 1 binder (1 ½ inches) completely full of articles and notes
  • 19-page research paper
  • 9 guided house tours

Having spent my summer at 26 different museums, I have learned that the museum world is massive, but a warm and welcoming community.  There are so many different types of career paths within history institutions.  Through the program, we got to taste every element of museum work.  I have  learned what I like about museums, and perhaps more importantly, what I do not. This has been helpful for me as I think about what I want to do after graduation, but it has also been overwhelming.  While I am unsure as to what I want to do with museum work in the future, I have learned that the museum world is a wonderful community and I know plenty of people who would be happy to help me process. Without fail, every museum professional that we met was friendly, encouraging, and inspiringly passionate about his or her work.

Museums are doing amazing things, but they are hurting right now.  We met with staff at nearly every museum that we visited and each person mentioned money problems.   Everyone from the small local museums to the Smithsonian needs finances desperately.  So, here is my small plea:  If there is a museum that has been meaningful to you, please consider donating.  I am sure that the institution would be extremely grateful!

In the end, there is perhaps no better way for me to sum up my summer than with a group picture.  These people defined my summer.  We lived together, learned about material culture, complained when we got frustrated, and hung out in our well-earned free time.  We have too many inside jokes to count and I personally acquired at least two new nicknames. Although we did not always exist in complete harmony, these people have become my friends and I hope that we will stay  in contact in the future, and not just as Facebook friends who say happy birthday to each other once a year.

While I am sad to leave my fellow fellows, and Deerfield itself, I know that my relationship with the people that I met this summer is just beginning.  It may sound cheesy, but I am aware that I am part of something larger than the 7 of us, part of an imagined community that goes back to the first fellows from 1955.  It is comforting to know that other fellows are out there, willing to offer help and advice when needed, and I am excited to be able to provide that to fellows in the future.

I hope that you enjoyed reading these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them! I am so grateful for this opportunity.  Without a doubt, it has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Thanks to Josh Lane for accepting me into the program and being an amazing director.  Thanks to my Messiah professors for being so supportive through the application process and over the course of the summer.  Thanks to Dr. Fea for helping me with everything along the way and encouraging me to  write these blog posts.  And, finally, thanks to you for reading them.

Photo courtesy of the Historic Deerfield Facebook page.