INFORMATION SESSION – 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend the presentation of the CGP students Transition Plan a required document identifying areas needing improvement to be accessible to those with Disabilities. Village Hall Ballroom, Cooperstown. Call 547-2411 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
DOCUDRAMA – 7 p.m. This month, explore the relationship between politicians and the press with a focus on Edward Murrow’s reporting of Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist activities in 1953. Free, open to the public. First Baptist Church, 21 Elm St., Cooperstown. Call (607) 547-9371 or visit www.facebook.com/ctownfirstbaptist/
CCAL MEETING – 1:30-3:30 p.m. Learn about upcoming courses for Continuing Adult Education. The Otsego Grill, Morris Conference Center, SUNY Oneonta. Call 607-441-7370 or e-mail email@example.com
K-12 ART & MUSIC NIGHT – 5-7 p.m. An exhibit of the art by Cooperstown students. The library will also be open with a craft program for children and a preview of the Library’s Summer Program. Cooperstown Art Association. Info, www.cooperstownart.com
EXHIBIT RECEPTION – 5-7 p.m. Opening the Lake Exhibit by the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Free and open to the public. Hyde Hall, 267 Glimmerglass State Park Road, Cooperstown. Info, hydehall.org/events-2/
LECTURE – 7:30 p.m. Bruce Buckley series presents Robert Baron speaking on “Contemporary Resonances of Mid Century Cooperstown Public Folklore and Public History.” The Fenimore Art Museum Auditorium, Cooperstown. Info, Amanda Berman firstname.lastname@example.org
OPEN HOUSE – 5-7 p.m. The Otsego Area Occupational Center open house includes display’s games, open enrollment for adult education classes, child fingerprinting, and demonstrations from the CTE programs. Otsego Nothern Catskills BOCES, 1914 Co. Hwy. 35, Milford. Info, www.facebook.com/ONCBOCES/
ALDEN SCHOLAR SERIES – 7 p.m. “Rethinking Clutter: An Anthropological Take on the Stuff that’s Hard to Let Go” presented by Dr. Sallie Han. Free reception to follow. Alden Room, Milne Library, SUNY Oneonta. Info, E.K Lee, (607)436-2159
ORAL HISTORIES – 6:30 p.m. Cooperstown Graduate Program students Emily Pfeil and Kate Webber demonstrates the discussion of oral histories with residents of senior communities. Woodside Hall, 1 Main St., Cooperstown. Info, Karen Cadwalader, LCSW @ (607)547-0600
SPAGHETTI FUNDRAISER – 5-8 p.m. Enjoy a spaghetti dinner to support the local Calcio United Soccer club based out of Fortin Park, Oneonta. 6th Ward Athletic Club, West Broadway, Oneonta. Info, www.facebook.com/calciounitedsoccerclub/
ONEONTA – Ibram X. Kendi, former SUNY Oneonta assistant history professor, just won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.”
“In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there was the human beauty,” he said in his acceptance speech when the awards were announced Wednesday in New York City. “There is the human beauty in the resistance to racism.”
When Greg Harris, ’93, was a Cooperstown Graduate Program “first year,” he may not have known that what he did in his free time would be as important to his career as what he did in the classroom. “We were always out going to see bands in Oneonta, Cherry Valley,” he said. “We spent as much time in the community as we did in the classroom.”
In December 2012, Greg Harris, who rose to vice president of development at the Baseball Hall of Fame, was named the president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
He maintains a home in Fly Creek, and was back in Cooperstown Friday-Sunday, Oct. 10-12, among 25 alums and spouses at the 50th anniversary of the CGP. “It’s great to be back in Cooperstown, seeing alums and family,” he said. “When you’re in a small town and a two-year program, you get to know each other really well.”
While in the graduate program, he did his community service project at Brookwood, helped archive CGP founder Louis Jones’ files and put together an oral history on the Cooperstown Diner. “I spoke to all the owners from the 1920s to the early ’90s,” he said of the latter. “I talked to regulars. It was a big project.”
That spirit of community has helped influence Harris’ new strategic plan at the Rock Hall. “We want to know who our visitors are and make changes to exhibitions to reflect that,” he said. “We want Lady GaGa and Bruno Mars to be in the same space as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. More people can come see these artists, and it will be more relevant to younger visitors.”
Under his new plan, curators work with educators, marketing and digital media to create exhibitions. “We want to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock & roll,” he said.
This year, Harris presided over the Induction ceremony for the first time, held in Los Angeles. It featured Randy Newman, Heart, Public Enemy and Rush. Next May, he will host his first induction in Cleveland. “I’m very excited about this year’s ballot,” he said. “There’s a lot of older artists who haven’t been recognized yet” – Lou Reed, The Spinners, The Marvellettes among them – “and some newer artists” – Sting, Green Day, The Smiths and Nine-Inch Nails. “It’s a big statement that rock & roll isn’t something that’s from a long time ago. It’s alive.”
Harris has also bolstered relationships with inductees so that they know they are welcome even if they aren’t on the stage. “They need to know that they are part of the story of rock & roll,” he said. “It’s something the Baseball Hall of Fame does really well with their induction ceremonies, and it’s already showing great results.”
Louis C. Jones was on a Guggenheim in the Virgin Islands when Stephen C. Clark invited him to Cooperstown for “a chat.”
According to one story, the Joneses hadn’t brought a can opener and were unable to find one in the Caribbean, and Louie off-handedly told wife Aggie this would be a chance to pick up one up.
Interviewed on The Otesaga’s veranda, the future NYSHA director and founder of the Cooperstown Graduate Program told Clark he didn’t like rich people, wasn’t a Republican (some remember him as a follower of Norman Thomas, the socialist), disliked the country club scene – on and on. Not much of a hard sell.
But, it turned out – as current NYSHA President Paul D’Ambrosio recounted a few days before this weekend’s CGP 50th anniversary celebration – that was just the temperament Clark wanted for the task at hand. “Stephen Clark was such a unique individual, in his humanity and respect for every person,” said D’Ambrosio. “He believed ordinary men and women built this country and their story needed to be told.”
And so, in 1947, Louis Jones began his quarter-century tenure as NYSHA’s top executive, overseeing evolution of “The Fenimore House,” additions to The Farmers’ Museum (including the centerpiece Cornwallville Church) and, in 1964, CGP’s creation, a collaboration then and now between NYSHA and SUNY Oneonta. (SUNY Oneonta President Nancy
Kleniewski often calls CGP “the jewel in the crown” of the college’s graduate programs.)
As Wendell Tripp, longtime editor of New York History, NYSHA’s scholarly journal, and still a CGP adjunct, tells it,
Jones found a capable – and similarly independent – management cadre in place: Janet MacFarlane and Mary Cunningham, who ran the place during WWII, only to be supplanted when the men returned, and George Campbell, a farmer and one-time member of the village crew who had parlayed his knowledge of vintage farm implements into the position of curator.
“Louie Jones was a highly intelligent person – as a lot of people are,” said Tripp. “But he had a marvelous humanistic sensitivity so that he could lead, encourage and stimulate very creative people, without being domineering or subservient.” He was also a “marvelous raconteur” consulted in cultural matters by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and other of Albany’s leading lights. And so the NYSHA entities thrived.
Louie Jones was, first, an educator (with a lifelong interest in murders and ghost stories), coming to Cooperstown from the future SUNY Albany. “He knew there was no place in the country training young people in history museums,” said Gretchen Sorin, CGP’s current director. “A lot of museums had no professional staff.”
He was also intrigued with creating a program “on the campus of the museums” – that still sets apart the CGP today. And so, in the fall of 1964, the CGP welcomed its first class at “The White House,” that building to the north of The Fenimore.
Jones was its first director, for a while ceding general NYSHA responsibilities to Fred Rath, who became “acting” director, (though Jones kept a hand in it.)
The curriculum at the outset was heavily influenced by the Foxfire Movement, a 1960s an oral history and DIY (do it yourself) initiative that sought to preserve the legends, farming practices, recipes and other cornerstones of life in the Appalachian Region (Otsego County is at its north end.)
That impetus was very much alive when Sorin arrived on campus in the mid 1970s, (as it happened, CGP’s first black student.) The curriculum included in its museum management, folklore and art conservation classes, such activities as hog butchering (at The Farmers’ Museum) and a knowledge of maple syruping, moonshining and the like.
By the time D’Ambrosio arrived – an English major undergrad, he became intrigued with museum work during an internship helping conservators stabilize a collection of 19th century cartoonist Eugene Zimmerman at the Horseheads Historical Society – the folklore track had lapsed and art conservation had moved to Buffalo, where students could work on art more modern than NYSHA’s 19th century collection.
Today’s museum studies curriculum is guided by what Sorin refers to as the New Social History, still including the oral histories and studying “pre-industrial technology, but all focused on “ordinary people and everyday life.”
When all three programs were functioning, enrollment peaked in the 60 range, but today’s classes are 20 or so, meaning there are 35-40 students going through the two-year curriculum at any one time. They study, not just exhibits and collections, but administration, finance, fundraising and development and “cultural entrepreneurship.”
Responding to trends in the industry, students can also learn about science museums. The latest addition to the five-person faculty is Carlyn S. Buckler, a molecular biologist by training. There are another five part-time faculty members, including D’Ambrosio. (He and wife Anna, director of Munson Williams Proctor Art Institue in Utica, are one of a dozen “CGP couples.”)
A “big ideas” course – reflecting trends like diversity and evironmentalism – seeks to put museum studies in a larger context. “We want (our students) to be on the cutting-edge of scholarship,” said Professor Will Walker, who teaches that course, as well as overseeing oral history.
In the 1970s, the program had moved into a cinderblock building north of The Fenimore complex, a bit of a bunker, which it shared with SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station. However, a $6 million redo three years ago gutted the building and replaced it with an airy modern structure, a glass wall looking out on James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. It includes a gallery to give students hands-on experience, as well as a digital lab.
For years, the CGP and Winterthur, the University of Delaware’s museum-studies program, were seen as competing, but that’s past, Sorin believes, as the latter focused on decorative arts and the former on the real world.
“People love coming here,” Sorin said of the students she’s seen over 19 years. “They love this place. They love becoming part of the community.”
Of the 1,000-some graduates, many populate the heights of museum administration and scholarship. Hunt and peck through the CGP Alumni Directory, and a star emerges on every page, from Jane Spillman, “the queen of American glass” who recently retired from the Corning Museum of Glass, to Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
“Our program … gives SUNY Oneonta a national impact on how culture is preserved and presented to the public,” said Kleniewski, reflecting on the half-century record. “You’ll find our graduates everywhere from the California African American Museum in Los Angeles to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.”
Over 50 Years, CGP Students Gather 1,800 Oral Histories
By LIBBY CUDMORE•The Freeman’s Journal
Edition of Thursday, Sept. 25
From maple sugar to folk songs, from farming techniques to pierogie recipes, over 1,800 recordings have been collected by the Cooperstown Graduate Program since its founding 50 years ago.
“There’s all kinds of incredible material,” said Will Walker, the associate professor of history who oversees the student research. “These are people’s lives.”
The Oral History collection has been part the Folklore concentration since the CGP opened in 1964 – the 50th anniversary will be celebrated the weekend of Oct. 10-12 by, among others, prominent alumni from across the country – and is now gathered as CGP’s Community Stories. “It’s a community-based project to capture the whole community,” he said. “Doctors, lawyers, farmers, teachers – the list is quite diverse.”
First-year students select an interview subject from suggestions Walker collects through a network of former subjects and interested parties. “It’s very organic,” he said.
Students also have a chance to reflect on previous interviews. In the 1970s, a group collected recipes from Utica’s Italian and Polish communities. “One of my students recently went back and found family members of those original interviews,” said Walker. “Some of them had moved away, but they still gathered at a church and made those same recipes 30 years later. She brought back the most delicious pierogies I’ve ever had.”
Other students went back and interviewed ice fishermen on Otsego Lake, just as students before them had done. “It’s interesting to hear what students recorded 30 years ago and now.”
The Ingalls family in Hartwick has also been the subject of interviews over the decades, tracing their history from a dairy farm to a roadside farm stand and u-pick on Blueberry Hill.
Former student Henry Glassie, now a “legend” in Folklore studies and a professor at Indiana University, did his oral history on Jesse Wells, a hop picker just as the crop was beginning to decline in the early 20th century. “He was also a musician, so Henry recorded all these songs,” said Walker. “He took these stunning photographs and pasted them on loose-leaf paper in his report.”
The original document is now fragile with age, but photocopies have been made and scanned for preservation. The interviews themselves, from reel-to-reel tape to mp3, are also logged, and many are available for listening on the Community Stories website.
CGP’s founder, the late Louis C. Jones, even told his tales of collecting stories in one student-conducted interview. “Some of those recorders weighed 50, 75 pounds and had to be plugged in – I’ve carried them up mountains, only to find there were no plugs!”
And as the fall semester begins, students are already starting to pick their subjects and practice their interviewing techniques. “So much history is not preserved in the written record,” said Walker. “The only way to capture this history is by talking to people.”