2019 “Access and Identity” annual conference Cassetti Scholarship Recipient
By Meredith Horsford, Executive Director, Dyckman Farmhouse
Meredith Horsford, Executive Director of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum at the Otesaga Resort Hotel during the 2019 annual conference in Cooperstown, NY
I was honored to be named the inaugural recipient of the Cassetti Scholarship for the Museum Association of New York’s Annual Conference. This scholarship provided my small nonprofit organization with the funds necessary for me to attend and present at the April 2019 Museum Association of New York Annual Conference: Access and Identity.
As the Executive Director of the Dyckman Farmhouse, a small historic house museum built in 1784 and the last remaining farmhouse in Manhattan, our small budget and staff size often makes it difficult to set aside the time and financial resources for valuable professional development opportunities such as the MANY Annual Conference. It was a great experience to be able to attend the 2019 conference for many reasons. One of the most important reasons was the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum's ongoing DyckmanDISCOVERED initiative. We are beginning a new phase here at the farmhouse in which we are in the midst of fleshing out the narrative of the people that were enslaved by the Dyckmans. Our first step in this initiative is a year-long installation by local artist, Peter Hoffmeister, whose site specific artwork was inspired by the slave burial ground that was on the Dyckman property. Like many burial grounds of its kind, unfortunately, it was paved over, disrespected, and forgotten.. Today, of a NYC public school and a parking lot covers the site The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum has been working with elected officials to get a commemorative plaque for the site. Hoffmeister's art installation is the first time that the farmhouse has provided the public with information about the enslaved, as we have very little information in our records despite their large contributions to the farmhouse. The next phase of the initiative is currently underway. With the help of a grant from The New York Community Trust, The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance has hired a research assistant to do additional research on the enslaved on the Dyckman property as well as the enslaved in what is now Upper Manhattan, as it was quite different from lower Manhattan. Our next steps will include developing ways that this new research can be infused into everything that we do from public programs, to tours, to the objects in the period rooms.
The DyckmanDISCOVERED initiative fit quite well with the theme of the 2019 MANY Conference and was a perfect place to make connections with colleagues, discuss these topics, challenges and achievements, and to think outside of the box, especially as it relates to the stories that museums tell and choose not to tell. Some of the sessions that stood out most to me were, "The Practice of Mindful Leadership," and "Accessing the Untold Stories of Slavery in Martin Van Buren's Home." It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see how other institutions are addressing similar themes and in the case of the Van Buren home, thinking about how small amounts of information can make a big impact in your organization's narrative. The conference was also the first time that I was able to present with a group of my colleagues about “Using Institutional Values to Center Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum and other peer institutions. This is a presentation that, as a group, we have re-presented different versions at two subsequent conferences. The sessions that I attended were useful to me not only in my day-to-day life as a museum leader but also in thinking about the institution’s next steps. Also, having grown up in Cooperstown, it was great to have an excuse to go back and visit the area, which is beautiful in the spring. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and look forward to attending the MANY Conference in the future.
Learn more about the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.
Applications for our 2020 Conference Scholarships will be announced on Monday, November 4. To learn more about The Power of Partnership 2020 annual conference in Albany, March 29-31 please visit: nysmuseums.org/annualconference