Monday, October 13, 2014

CGP celebrates 50 years

Chris and I spent this past weekend in Cooperstown, NY, helping our graduate program celebrate 50 years of training museum professionals!

The Cooperstown Graduate Program -- called "CGP" or just "the Program" by students, alumni, and faculty -- was the first to offer graduate degrees in museum studies.  The first class of 28 students came in the fall of 1963.  Back then, the program was only one year, so the Class of 1964 is our oldest and dearest group of alums.

In the late 1970s, the Program began to develop a 2-year master's degree program with a full time summer internship in between.  That is the model that continues today.

It was wonderful and surreal to be back in Cooperstown.  Chris and I went back together a few times when we were living in Rockland County (and the drive was much, much shorter) to visit friends or to be a judge for New York State History Day.  I was there in 2010 for the first ever Institute for Cultural Entrepreneurship, a unique conference for mid-career museum professionals.  That year the Program was in the middle of a major building project.  I did not get to see its new home until this past weekend.

I was IN AWE.

The new building is very modern on the inside (white, glass, metal) while staying true to its heritage on the outside (brown, green).  It is still situated well into the landscape, but when you walk in -- WOW!

After passing a small reception area, the first thing you see is a wonderful new gallery space where students build exhibitions.  The current exhibition, "All Cooped Up," explores winter in Cooperstown.  It was very well done and quite impressive!  Students have more tools at their disposal than we did back in 1999.  There is a graphics lab now, furnished with a large format plotter and I assume a vinyl cutter, based on the exhibition design in "All Cooped Up."  Students traditionally unveil their class exhibit before Interview Weekend in March.  I'm anxious to see how students will top what's there now.

Back in the "dark ages" we had something like 4 computers, which we mostly used to type papers or check email in DOS.  Today the new lab has work stations for every student in a class to receive training on graphic design software or other programs.

I am thrilled for current and future students, but I am also a bit jealous!  What a grand space in which to study museums.

CGP is well-known for responding to trends in the museum field, and the present is no exception.  It is rolling out a new certificate program for Science Museum Studies.   One of the four faculty positions is now for science!

The weekend itself was a great time for reconnecting with old friends and revisiting museums that we haven't been to in years.  Our classmate Erik Strohl is now the Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he led a behind-the-scenes tour of their amazing collections.  We saw many rare and wonderful treasures of baseball, including:
  • Bats used by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (We got to hold them!!  With white cotton gloves on, of course.)
  • A rule book from 1859, when baseball teams were clubs of amateur players who paid a membership fee to play the game
  • The handwritten record of Jackie Robinson's first season playing baseball (Erik said once they wrote down the first game he played, that is the document that represents the breaking of the color barrier in baseball)
  • A shriner's hat worn by Ty Cobb
  • A baseball signed by both Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • And so many more documents, photographs, and artifacts!
It was a fantastic tour!  And it was great to see how far Erik has come.  When we were students, he was a curatorial intern at the BBHOF and has worked his way up to a very prestigious position!

We also had the opportunity to tour the "Folk Art & American Modernism" exhibition with Paul D'Ambrosio, President and CEO of the New York State Historical Association and fellow CGP alum.  The exhibition explores early 20th century art collectors who essentially saved early American folk art from oblivion. 

I am proud to be a CGP alum, and I am in excellent company.  There are only 950 of us, because each class is approximately 15-20 students.  There are CGP grads doing great things across the country and around the world.

And there are two of us right here at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum!

Just two quick pictures from our weekend:

Members of the class of 1999:  Stacy Ward, Chris, and me at CGP's 50th Anniversary Dinner on Saturday night
The view from our hotel room.  The fall colors were so much brighter in person than they look in this picture!  Nothing beats autumn in Cooperstown.  It is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen.

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