By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
---- — In the fall of 2013, the Cooperstown Graduate Program developed several projects to engage the local community.
In November, the second year students in the Applied Museum Education course collaborated with Cooperstown Central School for the first time to create programming for autistic youth, said Katie Boardman, the professor of the course at CGP.
After observing classes, talking with CCS teachers, and participating in a webinar with the education staff at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, CGP students crafted two workshops focused on cooking and music,” wrote Britney Schline, second year student from Cobleskill, in the History Museum Studies program in a press release.
The “Cozy Day” program took place at The Farmer’s Museum and included two stations: One where students used historical cooking methods to make fritters and fried apples and the next for making folk instruments out of cardboard boxes and other everyday items.
“It was a really neat prototype program,” Boardman said. “This was an ideal program for us. It was fun and enjoyable and it helped us collaborate with the community.”
Patrick Dickerson, second year student originally from Baltimore, Md., who assisted with creating the lesson plans for this event, said the collaboration with the CCS teachers was crucial in order to write the lesson plans.
“Every student has different abilities so we had to try to make a lesson plan that could be modified for each student,” he said.
A total of four or five family groups attended the day, Dickerson said.
Another program that students were involved with was developing plans for the use of a historic house in Cold Springs for Scenic Hudson, a non-profit environmental land conservation group based out of Poughkeepsie.
Gretchen Sorin, the director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program and distinguished professor of Museum Studies, said the students came up with a 50 to 60 page planning document that included three possible uses of the space.
The first was to use the home as a private residence, Sorin said. The second idea was to convert the property into a bed and breakfast, as Cold Springs is a tourist town, Sorin said. The third and final plan was to contract the space as a venue for events for people and businesses to use, especially the many breweries and wineries in the area.
The students were also involved in a project at Johnson Hall State Historic Site in Johnstown. Patrick Dickerson said that the goal of the project was to update the educational lesson plans for children. The students were given the task of developing programming for the 18th century slave quarters, as much research had been done but there were few materials to show to children or other museum visitors, he said.
The CGP students then met with teachers in Johnstown to find out the requirements of an educational field trip, Dickerson said. After sorting through the research, the students focused on three slave stories and created activities around those narratives, he continued. One of those activities was to make a messenger bag, as one of the slaves was the messenger for Sir William Johnson.
“Working in the community gives students the chance to think through some of the issues nonprofits deal with and it gives the organization a terrific product at no cost,” Sorin said.
Sorin also spoke about the community stories project that was started in 1964. Every year since then students have been interviewing people from the communities of Cooperstown and Oneonta to “preserve traditional practices” that have been going away in our society, she said.
First year students conduct one-hour interviews with people from the Cooperstown area. Those interviews are recorded and sent to the New York State Historical Society Library and Walker, the professor who oversees this project, has digitized them as well.
In December, CGP students invited the community members they interviewed for a special “Community Stories” event. Those histories are available to listen to at www.cgpcommunitystories.org.
The goal of the involvement of the students in the community is to be able to engage people of all ages, creeds, races and ethnicities in museum programming, Sorin said.
The Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP) was founded in 1964 and offers a two-year course of study that leads to a Master of Arts degree in History Museum Studies. The CGP is a partnership between the State University College at Oneonta and the New York Historical Association that provides students with in depth knowledge of museum studies.
Service and experience based learning is at the core of the program, Sorin said.
“One of the things we do here is focus in on the museum as a community service organization,” Sorin said.
Sorin said there are many exciting things to come for the CGP. This year culminates the 50th anniversary of the program and they are collaborating with local museums to do an exhibit on Main Street in Cooperstown.
Also, the CGP is hosting a lecture on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. about the “Negro Motorists Green Book.”
“Published between 1936 and 1966, the Green Book was a guide for African Americans traveling through segregated America, offering a list of safe places to stop,” Britney Schline wrote in an email.
The lecture is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The lecture will be held at the CGP campus at 5838 State Route 80 in Cooperstown and is free and open to the public.