Join us in welcoming the new Development Assistant, Brittany Turner, to the President Lincoln’s Cottage team! External Communications Coordinator Jenny Phillips sat down with her to chat about her new role, Lincoln, and of course, Harry Potter.
Tell us your title and explain your role here at the Cottage?
I’m the Development Assistant, and a lot of the work I do is to help support development efforts regarding donors, fundraiser initiatives, and events.
Tell me a little more about your background and professional experience.
I have worked in government subcontracting for disability services, specifically sign language interpreting. During that role there was a lot of shuffling, working with people, learning your audience person by person and how to connect with them. I’ve worked at a couple of museums as well. I worked at Gallaudet University’s museum — also where I went to undergrad — where I helped develop their first permanent exhibit, called “Gallaudet 150 Years and Beyond.” I did the initial research and panel writing for the first three panels of the exhibit, which I’m very proud of. I then worked very briefly at Hillwood Museum as a Visitor Services Assistant. Now, my “for fun” gig, is being a volunteer docent at the Stabler Lead-Beater Apothecary Museum in Old Town, Alexandria. I conduct the afternoon tours of the site. We’re starting an ASL specific tour, and right now we’re doing a Harry Potter version of it. I lead both of them and it’s super fun.
What do you mean the Harry Potter version?
So there are items in the museum — actual plants and herbs — from at least 1933, probably older, that are mentioned in Harry Potter. For example, mandrake root. It doesn’t scream at you, like in the book, but it does have medicinal purposes. These are the items J.K. Rowling pulled from for her book. She built her potions based on the real medicinal purposes, which not everyone knows about.
Big Harry Potter fan?
Oh yes. I’m the type of person who bought tickets to the play [Cursed Child] in London when it came out. While there I did the whole Harry Potter circuit: the Elephant Cafe, the cemetery, Kings Cross station. I went to Warner Brothers Studio to see the sets from the movie. I was in heaven. Harry Potter World is on the list for my 30th birthday.
What was one thing that made you interested in working at President Lincoln’s Cottage?
I actually visited President Lincoln’s Cottage for the first time with my grad school as a field trip. I liked the uniqueness of the space, how it wasn’t overly packed with objects, and how you allow the space to be the “object.” The mission and the vision really resonated with me as well.
What are your other favorite museums?
Obviously I have an affinity for the Stabler Lead-Beater Apothecary museum in Alexandria, where I’m a volunteer docent. It opened in 1792 and it was owned and operated for 141 years. I have to say Mount Vernon as well — they have really great events. I’ve been to their wine festival a few times.
What got you interested in history in the first place?
I was fascinated with mob history, like the Boston tea party, the Boston massacre, you know, mob action that created political change. That fascinates me. It’s what I wrote my Master’s thesis on, while I was at George Mason University for grad school.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Palmdale, southern California. Where I grew up, it was aerospace central. It was not unusual to hear a sonic boom, and the space shuttle landed an hour from where I lived. Everyone’s parents worked for Boeing. I made the move to the East Coast in 2011 for undergrad, and to come from the middle of the desert filled with airplanes, it was a bit of a culture shock. DC is so busy! So many tourists, monuments, and traffic.
What are you typically doing on the weekends?
On the weekends you can typically find me on a winery tour. I love Virginia wineries, and I have three recommendations of places to visit: I tell everyone who wants an easy, accessible winery with decent wine to hop over to Bull Run in Manassas. Then I’ll send you to the barns at Hamilton Station. It’s the cutest 100-year old barn converted into a winery, with excellent wine. Potomac Point Winery is also great. So I’m usually sipping wine or reading. I’m an avid reader.
What are you reading right now?
I’m doing a reading challenge for the year, where I read all different genres. Right now I’m reading a book about the place I’ve always wanted to visit: Paris. It’s about a man who calls himself a “literary apothecary.” He has a floating library on the Seine river, and he gives out books as prescriptions. It’s called The Little Paris Bookshop.
Switching gears, what’s something that we don’t know about you yet?
I’m deaf on one side. I’m classified as “hard of hearing” and fluent in ASL. So a tip when you’re working with me is just to remember to not cover your mouth when you’re speaking. I can hear for the most part, but I do supplement with reading lips.
Favorite thing about Lincoln?
He seemed like a quirky guy and it makes him awkwardly relatable.
I ask everyone this: You’re at a cocktail party. What’s your pitch to people who haven’t visited before? Why come to the Cottage?
This museum is different. The tours are small, customized, and engaging. The whole point is to have a conversation, not to just look at something and go home.
For further questions about membership or development, which Harry Potter house you belong to, Paris, Virginian wine, or to learn a new ASL sign, pop by the middle office or email Brittany Turner at BTurner@lincolncottage.org