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How many alums can say they work with priceless baseball memorabilia on a daily basis? Find out how two Gettysburg College alums fielded this opportunity thanks to their liberal arts education and a unique graduate program.
The Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP) is a unique partnership between the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the New York State Historical Association. It offers students access to museum resources with the support of a state university in a highly competitive environment.
“This year, we had 92 applicants, and we only accept between 16 and 17,” said Catherine Raddatz, Coordinator of Alumni Affairs. “It’s a rigorous, two-year training program.” Numerous Gettysburg College graduates, mostly history majors, have gone on to CGP and have been successful academically and with job placement. “We love Gettysburg students,” said Raddatz. “They’re great in the academic world. We’re thrilled to have them come and apply.”
Gettysburg College students tend to be among the most prepared at CGP.
“My (CGP) history professor would always comment on my Gettysburg training,” said Steve Light, a 2005 Gettysburg history graduate and 2008 CGP graduate, who is now the manager of museum programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown. “I definitely was prepared from my Gettysburg education from the history department. The history that is part of the graduate program, I already knew from going to Gettysburg.”
Emily Voss (pictured right), a 2005 history graduate from Gettysburg and 2009 CGP graduate, who now works as a school programs associate at the HOF, agreed that her Gettysburg education was a big help. “It was true that everyone else from Gettysburg who had taken historical methods already knew all of this about historical research,” she said. “The manner in which Gettysburg College classes are taught helped a lot, too,” she added, noting her undergraduate experiences with critical thinking, research, and writing, a lot of which was from her history major.
A unique aspect of CGP, being a museum campus, is that the real-world experience is available in close proximity to the classwork. The Fenimore Art Museum, which contains American fine art, American folk art, and Native American Art; the Farmers’ Museum, which is a living history museum; and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are all located in the “Village of Museums.”
“The proximity to three very different museums right there in the village helped a lot,” said Voss. “You can literally walk from one place to another. Although the village is small, there’s a lot offered with that. We were well-contained. There were opportunities to bounce ideas off each other.”
Added Light: “It was a really great opportunity to not only study the theoretical side of museums in class, but the practical training of working in a museum at the same time.”
Working with museum professionals regularly, students also have the opportunity to meet new people and get new contacts. “I expected to an extent to have a network of other professionals that I would meet,” said Voss. “Having a lot of other connections professionally all over the country has been really nice. Something I couldn’t have imagined just looking at the program.”
CGP is a generalist program, so there are no official specializations for students. Instead, students choose electives based on their career interests. CGP graduates are prepared and qualified to work in many types of museums including art, decorative art, and science. There is a variety of electives from which to choose, encompassing 18 areas of study. Light’s favorite class gave him a different look at American history. “A history course, 'Class, Race, and Gender,' studied American history through those three lenses,” he said. “Specifically looking at events in American history through those lenses, and I thought that was a really neat class.” Voss took an interest to material culture. “In my second year, I took the advanced level of material culture,” she said. “I continued to take them because I found it incredibly interesting. We talked about how the design of things we see in regular life can say a lot about the people who used them and built them in the first place.”
Also part of the program is a required internship. Students choose a place to work to get more hands-on, real-world experience. Light did his internship in the education department of the HOF. “The summer internship definitely was something that was not expected because it directly led to my position here today,” he said. “It was definitely really positive development. My internship supervisor had left, so I applied for his position.” Voss’ internship led her to expand her experience. “I was at the Vermont Historical Society,” she said. “To step out of the box a little bit. My interest has always been more of an education purpose, but that took me to more of a collections focus. The idea was to survey every collections institute in the state and find out what they needed. It was a really large-scale survey project. It was very valuable, helped a lot when I’m working with the collections people here (at the HOF) so I have an idea of what they do.”
CGP has more than 750 alumni in 48 states and seven foreign countries, and more than 80 percent of the program’s graduates work in museums, historical agencies, historic sites, or related institutions.
Voss’ advice to Gettysburg College history majors is to “think really hard about what it is that you like about history. Pursue your options from there.” There are numerous options for history majors including jobs in the archives or museum field. “It doesn’t have to be just you in a library all the time,” she noted. Light recommends doing something you love. “Work doesn't seem like work if it's something that you will actually enjoy doing,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do when I left Gettysburg - and that was to share my love of history with others - and now I get to do that every day.”
CGP opened in 1964 with a class of 28 students. Over the past 48 years, the program has grown to be the premiere museum studies program in the country.
Article by Tommy RiggsPosted: Fri, 27 Apr 2012