Emily Holmes, November 02, 2020

Title

Emily Holmes, November 02, 2020

Subject

Cooperstown
Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP)
Cooperstown Graduate Association
Museum studies
The Famers' Museum
Smith College
Paul Revere Memorial Association
Paul Revere House
Museum education
Graduate student
Exhibition design
Community
Covid-19
Board of trustees
Harvest Festival
Pumpkin Festival
Zoom meetings
Professional Seminar
Museum professional
LGBTQ+
Boston, Massachusetts
The Ladies Auxiliary
Milford
Fly Creek

Description

Emily Holmes was born in 1980 in Exeter, New Hampshire. She grew up on a dairy farm and eventually moved to Belmont, Massachusetts with her mom and two siblings. Emily obtained her undergraduate degree with a major in History and a minor in English at Smith College in 2002. She concentrated on American History and had a summer fellowship at Historic Deerfield, where she learned administration and curatorial work. After graduation, Emily continued at the Paul Revere Memorial Association, working part time.

Emily had a passion for Museum Education and visited various master’s programs across the east. In the fall of 2004, she applied to the Cooperstown Graduate Program to get her degree in Museum Studies. Emily describes her various experiences, such as living on Leatherstocking Street in Cooperstown, going to various town festivals, and interacting with the community. She also talks about her experience as a graduate student, such as impactful moments visiting museums, parties thrown with classmates, and her internship at The Farmers’ Museum.

Currently, Emily is the Education Director at the Paul Revere Memorial Association, which operates the Paul Revere House in Boston, Massachusetts. Emily looks back at her experience at the Cooperstown Graduate Program as consistently being applicable to the real world. She is now the President of the Cooperstown Graduate Association and talks about how enjoyable it is to stay connected with alumni and current students at CGP.

Creator

Sydney Baker

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2020-11-02

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
51.7mB
image/jpeg
1524 x 858 pixel

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

20-001

Coverage

Boston, Massachusetts
Cooperstown, New York
1980-2020

Interviewer

Sydney Baker

Interviewee

Emily Holmes

Location

Boston, Massachusetts
Cooperstown, New York

Transcription

EH = Emily Holmes
SB = Sydney M. Baker

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

SB:
This is Sydney Baker interviewing Emily Holmes for the Research and Fieldwork class at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. The interview will be recorded over Zoom on November 2nd, 2020 at 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Emily, thank you so much for being here today. I was wondering if you could first tell me about your family.

EH:
Sure. I grew up in New Hampshire on a dairy farm. Both of my parents come from dairy farm families. I have a younger brother and sister. My parents got divorced when I was 11 and we moved with my mom to Belmont, Massachusetts so she could go to law school. I spent the rest of my school time in Belmont and my parents had both remarried. They both had step kids, so I have three step siblings. I have two nieces who are thirteen and two, and I have a partner of 10 years, Chloe.

SB:
Could you tell me a bit about your time at Smith College?

EH:
Yeah. I went to Smith because I was really interested in the empowering education that they offered for women. I was somebody who always loved history growing up. I was obsessed with historical fiction, paper dolls, and going to museums and historic houses. I didn’t take any history classes from my junior year of high school until my second semester of Smith. Then I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve missed.” I love reading about history and learning about all of the different time periods.” So, I ended up focusing on U.S. history as a concentration in the History Major. I had an English minor because I also really like to read books, so I took English classes also [laughter]. A lot of the classes I took in English helped make me a better writer for museum purposes, I found. Distilling an argument to one page is one thing my professors really drilled down. That’s helpful. I have various groups of friends from college who I’m still in close touch with regularly today. Smith is one of those rare schools where people basically live in houses. I lived in the largest house. There were 100 people in my dorm, called a house. I lived there all four years. I never went abroad. I never took many classes from the Five College System because there were so many classes I wanted to take at Smith when I was there.

SB:
Why did you decide to apply to the Cooperstown Graduate Program?

EH:
Well, I’m glad you asked that because I was just about to decide if I should launch into that story or not. While I was at Smith, I did a class through the Five College System, actually, one class that was a joint class at Historic Deerfield about material culture. At the same time, I was working here at the Paul Revere House as a part time job. So, it was like a summer job and an “occasionally while I was home on vacations” job. I happened to see a brochure while I was here at work in the winter of my junior year right before I took that class, for the summer fellowship program at Deerfield. I did that program the next summer between my junior and senior year at Smith and lived at Historic Deerfield. I got totally engrossed in that material culture world and going to museums on field trips. In some ways it is very similar to the Cooperstown experience but distilled into two months and very historic-house centered. Cooperstown and Winterthur were both programs that the people at Deerfield talked a lot about. We went to Winterthur, and we saw lots of other museums while we were in the program. I’d heard about it [CGP] mainly through that program, but one of my coworkers at the Revere House, the education director who was here as the education director when I first started working here, Gretchen Adams, who is the class of ’89 from Cooperstown. She became one of my primary mentors, certainly, in Museum Education and Museum Studies in general. I knew that she had loved it, and I talked to her a lot about it before I applied. I actually requested information from Cooperstown three times before I applied. First, when I was in college and then two years after that. It seemed to me as I did more research that it was the program that I wanted to go to, but I didn’t feel ready to go to graduate school. I was just burned out and ready to have a pause on education and wanting to choose what I got to read and work some. I was lucky to be in a position where I could live at home and work two part time jobs. I worked here at the Revere House. One of my colleagues here, who is still one of my colleagues, she’s about ten years older than me, and I asked her for advice on when I should go back to school and she said: “Wait until you’re ready, then wait another year, then you’ll be really ready.” So that’s kind of what I did. I waited until I was really ready. My mom and I went and looked at a handful of programs, like Cooperstown, GW [George Washington University], and William & Mary. Not really many other places. Afterwards, she was like, “Well, where do you want to apply?” I said, “Cooperstown.” She said, “What about the other places we went?” And I said, “No, I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t want to go there.” She was like, “Oh, we just took this trip to go to all of those places.” I was like “Isn’t it great? We got to go to Colonial Williamsburg and D.C. and do all those fun things.” So, I kind of knew all along that it was where I wanted to go but I just waited until I was really ready and then I applied.

SB:
What was your interview weekend like?

EH:
I remember it being snowy. I stayed with Rebecca Slaughter, who was in ’05. No, wait, what year am I? She must have graduated that spring, and then I started in ’05. She was super nice, she lived in a house where my friend Anne later lived. I don’t know, it’s kind of a blur, honestly now reflecting back. I remember being crammed into the classroom at the time, the main classroom. This is obviously pre-renovations to the building. I remember having these big group conversations with the students and the faculty. Everybody was asking questions. We went over to have interviews in the library with the different committees who were doing interviews. We went on field trips, like seeing the Iroquois Storage Facility and The Farmers’ Museum. Yeah, there were big potluck dinners. I don’t know, it’s all kind of blurred in with interview weekends that I was at as a student.

SB:
Did you have any first impressions of any of the students or professors?

EH:
I don’t know. I did go visit before I applied with my mom the Fall of ’04. We just showed up without calling much in advance, I think. We met Ann Stewart, who passed away a couple years ago. She basically had the same name as my mom but in reverse. My mom is Anne Stuart and Ann is the opposite: no E and Stewart with a W. We hit it off right away with that connection. She was such a sweet person, so welcoming. I think that they usually have first years talk to prospective students, but the first years were off on a field trip. So, Megan Wood talked to me instead and we had lunch together and chatted about her experience. When I visited in the fall it was beautiful, crisp, October day. It was just so gorgeous and perfect while there. The Red Sox were about to be in the World Series, and it was very exciting to be in downtown Cooperstown. I bought a t-shirt. It was very fun.

SB:
Tell me about the first house that you lived in.

EH:
I lived in the same house the whole time basically. I lived on Leatherstocking in the [Bailiwick?] House, the red house. After I got accepted to Cooperstown, I was approached by two second years who were looking for a third person to live with. They had kind of gotten word on the street from Cindy that I was in and a person that they might like to live with. So Mehna Harders, now Reach, and Valerie Acquila and I all lived together. They had lived, I can’t remember the name, but on Susquehanna, right on the corner. They were the people who got, if you heard about it, skunks in the basement of their house. Their apartments got skunked when they were first years and they were looking to live elsewhere. So, we lived in the big red house and the landlords at the time were different than the landlord now. She was very particular. She left very meticulous notes and we had very detailed leases to sign. One of the things that she was really insistent upon was that everyone have their own bathroom for hygiene, which, in times of COVID now makes a lot of sense. At that time, we were like “OK, whatever, cool.” So even though we had more space, and more people could have lived there, she was like only three people can live here because there’s only three bathrooms. It was one of those buildings that has a small apartment attached to the back and a carriage house behind it. I lived with Mehna and Valerie the first year and they were wonderful. At the same time, my friends who were in my class, Leslie and Rosie lived in the Carriage House. We agreed pretty early on that they would move into the big house with me once we moved up to be second years. In the summer between my first and second year I was an intern at The Farmers’ Museum. Most of the apartments are rented out to the [Glimmerglass] Opera in the summer. That was true of the carriage house and the main house, but not the little apartment in the back. So, I took the little apartment in the back for the summer and it was not a great experience. The house had recently been bat proofed supposedly, but I could hear, as soon as I went to bed, bats crawling up the inside of the wall behind my head into the upper level of this little two story addition with a drop ceiling. It was very disconcerting. So it was sort of a battle all summer of me not wanting to live there really and I basically moved my mattress down to the first floor and put my mattress on top of my futon that was supposed to be my couch because I refused to sleep up there next to the bats crawling next to my head. I’m a really light sleeper and I was not having that. Anyway, that was unfortunate. Other than that, my experience living there was fine. There was a nice big lawn and it was a good house for parties.

SB:
You mentioned that your roommates were wonderful, what was your relationship like?

EH:
Yeah. My class in 2007 was really lucky. We had great experiences as a whole with the classes on either side of us, particularly the 06’s who were ahead of us. We were really close to them, and even the 05’s who were still in town. There was a lot of mixing between the classes in this range. There are multiple marriages between people in my class and people in other classes. Anyway, there’s a lot of good people in all those groups and we, I think, were really blessed to have a great mix of people who were excited to get to know each other, friendly, easy to get along with, and interesting people. I did look through some photos last night of pictures that I took during my two years at Cooperstown and was like “Oh yeah, that was so fun.”

SB:
What did you do for fun in Cooperstown?

EH:
Well my class really did enjoy a party. We really got into having theme parties. We had, while I was there, a mustache party. I say we but, generally, each household kind of took turns hosting events, of course. It wasn’t always the same people organizing it. They were held at different houses different times. So, we had a mustache party where everyone wore mustaches of some kind. Mine was a stick-on heart, foam [mustache]. I had a pink shirt on and pink heart mustache. There were obviously Halloween parties, because we did love any excuse to dress up. There was a jungle party. I hosted Oscar parties a couple times. Red carpet, which is a tradition I got from one of my college friends. Everyone dressed up in their fanciest outfit to go sit and watch the Oscars and take a do-your-own-ballot and see how well you can guess what the votes will be. We had a Barbie party, where you dressed as a Barbie, in the house that we used to call the “Barbie Dream House,” which I don’t think anyone rents anymore. It’s actually pretty close to the program and The Farmers’ Museum. It’s a one-story ranch over on the left as you’re driving from Cooperstown out towards The Farmers’ Museum. Anyway, one of my classmates lived there by herself and we always called it the Barbie Dreamhouse. It was like “of an era.” So, we had a Barbie party there, and I was looking at these photos last night seeing Cindy’s [Falk] kids, who were four and six at the time. They were so little and now they’re in college, which is crazy. There are definitely contingents in my class and the class ahead of us who were into bowling and would go bowling really regularly. So, we had some parties at the bowling alley as well, which I don’t think is operational anymore, but it was on the way to Oneonta. I just always feel like, when I think back about Cooperstown, I thought maybe [at first] when I went there that it would be really quiet with not much to do, but I felt like there was a festival of some kind every weekend. There was the Harvest Festival at The Farmers’ Museum or various events at other outdoor living history places. There was Pumpkin Fest and ice festivals, and soup festivals. In the winter there was always something manufactured going on that was something fun to do, something that was a distraction [laughter].

SB:
Do you have a memory from any of these festivals that comes to mind?

EH:
I do remember just being so shocked by watching the people rowing in these giant pumpkins on the lake [Otsego Lake during Pumpkin Fest]. I did not know that this was a thing that you could do, or that people would choose to do. So that’s one of those things. What was happening? Yeah, I mean those are probably some of the most memorable times. In terms of less event-driven but kind of more everyday stuff, I became a member of the gym [Clark Sports Center] so I could go on a walk in the winter and not be stuck inside the house all the time or on icy roads. A lot of my classmates worked at the gym as part-time jobs. Kajsa, who was in my class and works at Hanford Mills [Museum] now. She played volleyball, so we would go watch her games. There was definitely that kind of mixing with the community and kind of becoming part of the fabric of the town.

SB:
Where did you shop in Cooperstown?

EH:
So, now is it a Price Chopper that’s right in town? It was not a Price Chopper then. It was not as good. The closest Price Chopper was up in Richfield Springs. Occasionally, I’d go do a big shop up there and go to the, was that a PNC? I’m trying to think of what the one is that is on the way to Oneonta on the left. What’s the name of that town, just outside of Cooperstown as you’re going south to Milford. There’s a big plaza of a bunch of shops. I don’t remember what that grocery store is called now.

SB:
Tops?

EH:
Maybe Tops, but it wasn’t that then. I want to say that it was a PNC. So that was the place I went to most often; I also went to the local natural food store [Cooperstown Natural Foods] sometimes to get things that I couldn’t get elsewhere. As much as I could, I would walk downtown and go to CVS or places like that that were convenient. I liked to walk to places downtown that were convenient in terms of eating out. My class was also very fond of doing what we called the “Long Jump,” which was going to one bar and then going across the street to the other bar [Cooley’s and The Pratt] later in the evening for dancing. Sometimes we would stand on the sidewalk and see how far we could jump into the street. It was nice to walk to everything that was close by. It was more of a challenging time to do things, like deposit checks on your phone for instance, because I didn’t have an Apple phone when I was there. I have Bank of America and never switched banks so the closest Bank of America was a twenty-plus minute drive to the Northwest. I would go out there to deposit my checks in a single ATM and come back via Richfield Springs and go to the Price Chopper and the Chinese food restaurant and bring that home for dinner. Every week we would go there and eat out for “exotic” cuisine for a change of pace. There’s much more interesting food in Cooperstown now. There wasn’t sushi when I was there. There was mostly pizza and hot dogs and sandwiches, which is good for tourists for sure, but it is definitely more diverse now than it was then. I’ve been pleasantly surprised when going back to visit friends.

SB:
Tell me about any interactions that you had with members of the community outside of graduate students in Cooperstown?

EH:
For me, most of the people that I interacted with who were not students were the folks who we met through the program at the museum. They were the people who worked at The Farmers’ Museum, were friends of the program, taught us during class at the program, or people I worked with when I was an intern there. The folks who were the librarians were so great. I was remembering, we had a sixtieth birthday party for Wayne [Wright] when I was there. Now he’s retired. He is a real character. We learned that when we had a surprise party for my roommate Leslie. It was our first year. I think it was her thirtieth birthday, but I don’t remember for sure how old she was turning. We basically did a kidnapping surprise party for her and we told everybody what we were going to do but we didn’t tell her what we were going to do and then we went down to the roller skating rink in Oneonta. Rosie and I took Leslie out for dinner at Friendly’s and she thought that’s what we were doing. We dressed up like the 80’s for fun. We went out for an 80’s night on our own [laughter]. We blindfolded her with my scarf and put her in the car. We drove over to the roller skating rink and that’s where the rest of our friends, classmates, and other people met us. Wayne, it turns out, was a dedicated roller-skater. He went roller skating every week. That was a really fun surprise that we did not know, that he was an expert roller skater, a regular there [laughter]. He was not the kind of person that you would guess that about. The class also was very fond of buttons. We purchased, as a group, a button maker so we could make our own buttons and people designed their own. We would do themed buttons to go with our theme parties. You could make a button with a mustache on it for the mustache party or you could collect different buttons or make your own, obviously. We did have a lot of fun with making our own buttons. I remember going, I feel like it was our first year, but it could have been our second year, up to Fly Creek to the annual Fly Creek yard sale event, which was a fun, early fall, right around the time that you’re first settling into Cooperstown. They do this annual yard sale day up there. You go up and down the street and every house has tons of stuff out in their driveway and I feel like that was a real community event. We did go to community suppers and things like that, too, at various churches. I know I still have a bowl for soup that I bought for a fundraiser where artists had donated bowls that they had made for soup and you were giving money to the hungry. I don’t remember what it was called [Empty Bowls]. That kind of event.

SB:
Tell me about any traveling that you did outside of Cooperstown for fun or for field trips?

EH:
When I was living in Cooperstown, I was dating somebody who lived in Boston. We kind of rotated every two weeks who tried to see each other. She would go to see me and then I would go see her as our schedules worked out. I did travel back and forth on the Interstate 90 a lot. Plus, most of my family lives here [Boston], so I did a lot of coming home at times. When Kathleen would come to see me, we would go and do fun things. We went to the Soccer Hall of Fame before it closed in Oneonta. We went to Howe Caverns. They are underground caves, which are crazy. That’s a short drive. Some of us took a little day trip out to Ithaca and went and saw some gorges and ate at the Moosewood restaurant. Rosie’s parents have a house in the area, so we stopped in and had dinner with them. We had those kinds of nice outings. Field trips, I loved, because I love going to museums and seeing the “behind the scenes” to get the inside scoop. We had a lot of fun on our field trips. We went to Philadelphia with Cindy my first semester. We went to places like the “Please Touch” museum at its old location and saw where it was going to be, where it is now. They had not even started construction yet. We went to the Liberty Bell. We went to see the Mütter, which was really cool. I don’t even know what I did instead of this, but a lot of my classmates went to the Eastern State Penitentiary. We had some dinners at alums’ houses, you know, that kind of thing, which was fun. We did hit up some other, not yard sales, but flea markets on the way home. Or at least my van did, I don’t remember if the other vans did. We went to the Brandywine Museum on that trip, which was really beautiful. We went to New York City for a few days in the spring of that first year. We stayed in a place that was like a convent, some kind of religious place. There were crosses in the walls. I think it was particularly cheap housing [laughter]. It was the kind of place with little dorm rooms. We went to one of the Hudson Valley places on the way down, Philipsburg Manor maybe. We went to the Met [Metropolitan Museum of Art] and the Transportation Museum [New York City Transit Museum], which was really cool. We went there and loved that. I think we went to the Brooklyn Museum. I don’t remember what else we did in New York. On a separate day trip we went to Corning, which was awesome. I loved going to the Glass Museum [Corning Museum of Glass] and doing glass blowing and working with glass there. That was a Cindy [Falk] class trip as well, it was really great. We traveled a little bit with classmates. A few of us came here to Boston to stay at my parent’s house for AAM [the American Alliance of Museums conference] that spring. AAM was in Boston. At the end of my second year, some of us went to Chicago for AAM as well, which was really fun. Some of us went to NEMA, the New England Museum Association [conference]. My roommates and I went my second year as well, which was in Connecticut at the time, so not too far. I always recommend taking advantage of those student rates when you’re a student. You get those cheaper rates for housing if you don’t mind sharing. I was used to sharing beds with people on field trips. As a part of my internship we did a couple different field trips. Those of us who were interning at the Fenimore and Farmers’ Museum went and helped with History Day. NYSHA [the New York State Historical Association] at the time, was doing New York State history day at the Fenimore. I had done some of that working as an intern in the spring. Or maybe it was the next year I did that. As part of my internship we went down to the National History Day event at the University of Maryland. That was really cool, and we got to spend some time in DC as well. I saw the World War II memorial for the first time then. I don’t even remember where else we went. We wandered around. It was quite an experience to be in the National History Day giant university gymnasium with all these people. They were very into pins there, giving away and exchanging them. That summer, one of my classmates, Liz, and I were doing different projects, but both of our projects required some benchmarking for other institutions for recommendations that we were going to make to the museums. We kind of designed our own field trip and went on a road trip around New England to different institutions that were doing things that we wanted to see in person and take notes on. We drove into Massachusetts and did Hancock Shaker Village. We stayed in Boston and went up to Portsmouth [New Hampshire] to Strawbery Banke [Museum]. We stayed at my grandparents’ house for a night. We went to Billings Farm, the Shelburne Museum, and back to Cooperstown. Anyway, it was a fun mini road trip, just the two of us. Then, in the beginning of our second year, we went to Vermont again with Gretchen. We also went to Montreal. That was awesome. I think we were the last class. Gretchen doesn’t take students to Shelburne anymore. We went to Shelburne and at the time her friend had just left being the director there. She had been letting students stay in the Brick House, which was one little part of the museum not open to the public. It was a historic house where the founders lived themselves. It had antique furniture and stuff. We got to stay there, and it was such a treat to wander the halls and say, “Look at this, look at this, we’re sleeping in this bed.” I really loved the archaeology museum in Montreal, which is so fabulous. There’s a CGP alum [Catherine Charlebois], who is still there, at the primary history museum in Montreal [Centre d'histoire de Montréal]. Yeah, so we had lots of fun field trips. We had some down time to hang out with each other out on the town. We had to plan what we were going to wear. We had to pack all these professional outfits and figure out how we were going to pack them all up and keep them nice. It was also fun to get dressed up and feel special. I feel like people are always really welcoming to CGP students and always happy to talk to us about what they’re doing and what’s new in the field. We went to the Strong Museum, I can’t remember which year it was, maybe the second year, for a short one or two nights in Rochester. Are there any other field trips on my list? I don’t think so.

SB:
You mentioned that you would do trips back to Boston back and forth with your girlfriend at the time. Tell me about your experience being a part of the LGBTQ community in Cooperstown.

EH:
That’s a good question. Personally, I had known for a while that I was interested in women. I didn’t come out to my family until I started dating someone who was a woman. I think they already knew. It wasn’t this big surprise. I started dating Kathleen in 2004, winter of 2004. We started dating right as I was applying to Cooperstown, which was right around the time I was coming for interview weekend. We had only been dating for a month or two. We had the conversation pretty early on about me leaving and being away and whether we wanted to do this long distance or not. We decided that we would do it. I felt like I wanted to just be out in Cooperstown and not be trying to hide or worry about what people thought. At work at the Revere House, I was only out to a couple of close friends. I wasn’t telling everyone that I had a girlfriend. It was 2004, it was a different time than it is now. I just tried to be out, and it’s personally easier to be out if you have a partner. So, I just went with that and told people, “This is my girlfriend.” My classmates could not care less. They all loved Kathleen. We were together for about five years and have been broken up for more than 10 years. We are still friends and she really loved being in Cooperstown. I’m confident she’s still in touch with some of my classmates. I would say that I was not the only LGBTQ person in Cooperstown when I was there, but the other person who is now out, was not out at the time. She was in the class ahead of me. There may be others too that I don’t know of, of course. I did talk to her, and she did come out to me, but she wasn’t out to other folks. I think everybody was super chill about it. I feel like the only people I was ever nervous about telling were folks that were the farm staff I worked with at The Farmers’ Museum. The folks who were partners of people in my class, refer to themselves as the Ladies Auxiliary. There’s a whole clump of them. Many of us came in with partners that they were already married to, or dating at the time and have since gotten married. They kind of had their own support group, I would say. The funny part of the Ladies Auxiliary is that most of them were men because most of the people who were in the program in our class were women. We had about four men, which was a lot. Maybe three. Anyway, there were more guys than not in the Ladies Auxiliary and that is what made it amusing to them. Some of us formed our own group, a sibling support network. A few people in my class and I all share a common denominator of siblings who we did not agree with in our own personal lives. We would kind of have informal meetings to commiserate and chat about what was happening with our crazy siblings and what they were up to. I don’t want to say too much about that to protect other people’s privacy, but I will acknowledge that it was very helpful.

SB:
I’d love to hear more about your time at The Farmers’ Museum and your thesis on The Farmers’ Museum.

EH:
I did a project that was basically a reinterpretation plan for the farm part of The Farmers’ Museum. I think someone who worked there after we graduated did use it in doing some reinterpretation. I suggested some activities for the farmers to do with the public, like children’s barnyard activities and some reel-out options that they could implement like chore times that kids could participate in. I did two days a week dressed in period clothes. All the farmers wore men’s clothing. We got to do chores on the farm regularly with the animals, which was fun, because I grew up on a farm and I really liked animals. Garet Livermore was the education director when I was there. We had a conversation and I can’t remember if it was when I first visited Cooperstown or if it was during my interview. We had a conversation about my farming background pretty early on. He approached me in the second semester of my first year and asked if I would be interested in working on this project. He suggested that I could turn it into a thesis project as a research thesis. That’s what I did. I really like Cooperstown’s commitment to providing projects that are real world projects for students to do. It’s not something like “Oh, write this up,” that sits in a desk drawer that nobody will look at it again. I think you are having experience in things that will be actually used by museums is very important. It’s not theoretical, it’s actual real world work that you are doing. That’s what makes Cooperstown really special.

SB:
You mentioned that it was a material culture class that you took at Smith College that impacted you applying to CGP. I’m curious, how did your focus evolve at CGP over the two years?

EH:
More of that came from my experience here at the Revere House because I knew that I wanted to work in museums after having worked here as a part time job and then having a summer fellowship in Deerfield. I didn’t know yet what kind of concentration I wanted to do, or what kind of job I wanted to focus on as a museum professional. When I was working here, between college and CGP, I did do some projects that were special. I did some admin and curatorial work. Gretchen [Adams], who was the education director here, approached me and asked if I wanted to learn to do school programs. I said, “Yeah, I guess.” I didn’t think that I wanted to be a teacher, so I hadn’t gone into that as many history majors do, teaching history. I thought that I would give it a shot. I liked kids and had always been a babysitter. I had worked with kids a lot before. I thought, I’ll just try it on like a hat. I found that I really enjoyed going to classrooms to do programs and do programs here on the site working with kids. By the time I actually applied to Cooperstown, I really felt like I wanted to end up doing education in museums, but I didn’t want to do a program that was specifically Museum Education. I wanted to keep my options more open and do a program that was going to be really broad, and still allow me to concentrate a little bit in education. I kind of had that plan already in my head when I went to Cooperstown. I took all the education classes that I could take while I was there with that in mind. Coming from a small place, where we only had five or six full time staff, I knew that I would have to wear a lot of hats if I worked at a museum that was small like this place, and that it would be helpful to know how to do fundraising and exhibits even if I was specializing in education.

SB:
Was there a class at CGP that was impactful to you in some way?

EH:
I think so many of them were. I feel like I came back here after I graduated and I immediately put a ton of stuff that I had learned at Cooperstown to work because I had been hired to be the program assistant at the Revere House at a time that we were hired to do a capital campaign and do a project to totally restore this building, which is now our education and visitor center. It was falling apart in 2007. I got to be really involved in the process of strategic planning and planning specifics for exhibit design and write labels. Those things that I had done as part of my training came in immediately useful in that project especially, like the class project of interview weekend. My team did the reinterpretation of the lawyer’s office at The Farmers’ Museum as our exhibit project. That was a really good experience as well.

SB:
Were there any professors that were impactful to you?

EH:
I had a really great relationship with Garet [Livermore], who was at The Farmers’ Museum at the time and Katie Boardman, who taught education. I really enjoyed her class. Honestly, I loved all of my professors. I can’t choose a single professor. Gretchen’s [Sorin] classes were great and so interesting. I loved Cindy’s [Falk] classes and I still love material culture. I took all of her material culture classes too. My class had Chris Sterba as our historian. Cooperstown had lost their historian and had an interim for a year. Chris was there for the two years that I was there. They had another interim before they hired Will [Walker]. Chris was a real character and really fun to have as a teacher. All the professors were great.

SB:
How did your time at CGP affect your career long term over time?

EH:
I don’t know. I still feel like I draw on it. It’s great one of the benefits of COVID has been being able to participate in Professional Seminars. I haven’t been able to do any this fall yet because we are open. In the spring I was able to participate in Professional Seminar and it was fun. There’s still so much that we can learn from the program even when we’re in the field. To me, the community of alums is really important, and I am currently the CGA [Cooperstown Graduate Association] president. I have really enjoyed attending conferences and local events and things like that with alums. I have enjoyed having CGP gatherings at NEMA. That’s been really important to me. There is a collegial experience post-Cooperstown.

SB:
Why did you decide to be CGA President?

EH:
I didn’t decide. I was appointed.

SB:
Tell me about your time as CGA President.

EH:
I have really enjoyed my time on the board. I’m at the end of my second term and am almost at the end of my current term limits. I think one of the things I’ve enjoyed about being on the board is being more connected to the students and getting to meet students. For a long time, Cindy was bringing students to Boston and doing field trips here. I would host students every year at the Revere House and do a tour and have a reception in Boston. It was great to get to know the new crop of students even for a day and recognize their faces later on when seeing them at conferences. It got to be really expensive as the classes got bigger. They haven’t been able to come to the Boston area for a long time. At the same time, I asked to be on the board and got to go to Cooperstown more regularly and go to one meeting a year, or an event here and there. I felt more connected to the program and current students. I really enjoy meeting current students and getting to know them and what they’re interested in and what’s going on there. I really enjoy being in connection with the professors. That part has been really great, but I’ve also enjoyed getting to know the people I’ve served with on the board. Before, they were people I didn’t know other than having met them one time or never having met them. I do appreciate that aspect of being on the board as well, getting to know people who weren’t in my class or I didn’t overlap with in Cooperstown.

SB:
What challenges have you had being on the board?

EH:
Well, I think the timing has been a little bit tricky for me because of the way our terms worked out. I was chosen to be the VP for Katie [Boardman] when she was president, but we didn’t really realize or think through the fact that I only had one more year left of my term. Being a one year president is really tricky. I can set things up to happen next year, but it’s good and bad. This year has certainly been unusual for everybody. It has been a strange time to be in this leadership position where I don’t really know what I am doing. Back in January I had to run a meeting and I’d never had done that type of formal meeting running myself. I had only participated as a board member on the side. Now we have to meet on Zoom and have these new challenges thrown at us. I’ve been really happy and proud of how our board and our membership and alumni have stepped up to help students and former students. They started raising money specifically to aid folks who are affected by the pandemic with job losses and things like that. I think we have done really important work. It’s been very rewarding for all of us, but it has certainly been unexpected.

SB:
I’ll ask one final question. Compare for me the community that you had in Cooperstown to the community that you have at the Paul Revere Memorial Association.

EH:
In some ways it’s similar in that my class in Cooperstown was very close to each other. We did not always get along, which is true of all classes, I think. Our class got along with each other more than many. There are times when your classmates are driving you crazy and they say the same things every time that you know they will say. A little bit, that’s what it’s like to work here with people that I’ve known for twenty years. I think it’s trite to say that we are like a family, but I do feel like my close co-workers, that are full time staff at the Revere House, I do think of them like family members. I spend more time with than some of my actual family members certainly. They make me crazy sometimes, just like my family members make me crazy sometimes. But also I really care about them deeply and want them to be well and all of us to succeed. The atmosphere in Cooperstown is a little bit similar to that. You are with people so much, you see them every day. You live with them. Sometimes you are like, “Oh my gosh.” Group projects, when are you going to get this done? But, you also, at the end of the day, really like them. So, that’s one similarity, I guess. I do feel like one of the reasons that I was drawn to Cooperstown was that it did feel like a community the way that my Smith [College] Alumni Network feels like a community. Smithies are the kind of people that have each other’s backs. If you call somebody up, they say “I’m happy to help you out” with job prospects and things like that. In Cooperstown, the network is really similar to that.

SB:
Thank you so much for your time! I appreciated you setting aside your day to answer some questions about your time at Cooperstown.

Duration

53:50

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 03:08 - Cooperstown
Track 1, 13:02 - Community
Track 1, 39:04 - The Farmers' Museum
Track 1, 47:56 - Cooperstown Graduate Association

Files

EmilyHolmes_Photo_11.2.2020.jpg

Citation

Sydney Baker, “Emily Holmes, November 02, 2020,” CGP Community Stories, accessed April 14, 2021, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/436.