All in a Day’s Work

What does the Director of Education do during the “down time” after Fort Ticonderoga closes for the season? Well, in the first ten days since we completed the 2013 season, I’ve been quite busy.

I spent an afternoon at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, attending the annual Internship and Career Fair at the college. Over the course of the afternoon, I spoke with about 20 students about different career and internships opportunities available at Fort Ticonderoga in 2014 and beyond. Internship opportunities go beyond the ones that might come quickly to mind: education, interpretation, collections management and care, and include marketing, business management, and media. This visit to Champlain College is part of our continuing expansion of our college and university partnerships. Also in the past month, I’ve worked with students from Penn State University’s Heritage Interpretation program and students from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. While coming from distinctly different programs, both groups of students were exploring the challenges involved in operating a historic site/tourist destination.

In addition to meeting with college students, I spent an afternoon with students at Peru Middle School (Peru, NY) working with them as they begin the research process to create History Day projects for North Country History Day, to be held at Fort Ticonderoga on March 8, 2014. This year’s theme is “Rights and Responsibilities in History” and students pitched their project ideas. I provided advice on narrowing or broadening their topics as appropriate. I came away impressed with the thought most students had put into creating an intriguing project and going beyond a typical project based on the Bill of Rights or Women’s Suffrage.

The other day a secondary student from the United Kingdom met with me. He and his dad drove up from New York City especially to meet with me and discuss his project on Fort Ticonderoga in preparation for his A Level exams. Joshua is writing a 5,000-word paper with a thesis that Fort Ticonderoga was a critical post that affected not just the outcome of the Seven Years’ War in North America, but also the war as it unfolded in Europe. Joshua and his dad had never been to Fort Ticonderoga before, but I was greatly impressed with his background knowledge and his ability to identify elements in the surrounding landscape.

On the same day Joshua met with me, I worked with a group from the 7th Engineer Battalion at Fort Drum. They spent several hours examining Fort Ticonderoga and the surrounding terrain. Each member of the group had done some “homework” before the visit and gave a mini-presentation to the rest of the group related to the strategic significance of various structures and fortifications on the peninsula.

Almost everything that happens at Fort Ticonderoga is the result of collaborations between departments. In the last ten days I’ve:

    • Met with the Curator of Collections and Director of Interpretation to discuss programming possibilities related to next year’s new exhibition “Founding Fashions.”
    • Met with the Director of Horticulture as we plan the Third Annual Garden & Landscape Symposium to be held April 12, 2014.
    • Worked with members of our Development team to identify potential sponsorship opportunities.
    • Met with members of the Interpretation staff to identify possible presenters for the Material Matters seminar coming January 25 & 26, 2014.

I’ve also been working on our upcoming NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers and our Second Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute. These programs will bring a total of about 100 teachers to Fort Ticonderoga in July 2014, spread out over three weeks. The application window for both these programs opens December 1st, so I’ve been working on website pages and the line-up of staff and visiting scholars that will be working with these teachers from all over the country. Next week I fly to Washington, DC, for meetings at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the agency that funded our two Landmarks Workshops next summer.

Also in the past week, I was asked to give a presentation for teachers at the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies annual conference in Burlington on December 6th and to submit a proposal for a workshop for teachers at the New York State Council for the Social Studies annual conference to take place in Albany in late March.

As you might guess, all these programs and activities don’t just happen—there’s a lot of planning and leg work. I’m already working on events in 2015 and confirmed two speakers for the May 2015 War College this past week.

Add to that participating as the Fort’s representative on the “Ticonderoga, the First 250 Years” committee at its monthly meeting last week, and you’ve got a sample of what I’ve been up to over the last ten days.

And that said I better get back to work!

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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