Staff Spotlight: Favorite Cottage Moments of 2016
From our first year as an independent entity, to winning a Presidential award, from lots of bourbon and bluegrass to transforming the drawing room into a comedy den: 2016 has been quite a year!
We asked President Lincoln’s Cottage staff: What is your favorite Cottage moment of 2016? Read the answers below:
My favorite moment was getting to talk about the Cottage on my episode of Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek (who had visited the Cottage before). It was great sharing my passion for the Cottage on national TV, and was clearly good luck since I won that episode!
In addition, the whole year in some ways was a memorable event since it was the first year of President Lincoln’s Cottage operating as an independent 501(c)3. It was great seeing years of work come to fruition, and I’m proud to be part of the team that situated the Cottage on a great foundation for continued years of growth, stewardship and commemoration.
I have a few favorite moments from 2016: Riding a 120’ lift to inspect copper work on the top of a 75’ water tower; researching and trying different preservation techniques and materials on sills and cast iron steps; attending preservation conferences and symposia including The Mount Vernon GIS symposium and the Traditional Building Conference. I also enjoyed leading preservation tours at Bourbon & Bluegrass, working everyday with the smart and talented PLC staff; and supervising and learning from the specialized craftspeople we hire for preservation projects. Oh, and 12 months of a fully functioning HVAC system and no major water leaks.
I was passing through the museum store one afternoon and started a conversation with a visitor who happened to be from very near my hometown in South Carolina. Our conversation quickly turned to Lincoln, the Civil War, and slavery. While we were talking, the visitor asked me to name the top five reasons for the Civil War and bristled at the mention of slavery. He insisted that a google search wouldn’t list slavery at all. After his tour, he returned to the store, purchased several books on a variety of topics and let the store staff know that the tour had challenged everything he’d ever known about that particular moment in history. He left declaring that he had to know more. As a museum professional, I take it very seriously that our role is not to change someone’s mind, but to present people with the tools and perspectives to challenge long-held notions or think about something in a new way. This moment demonstrates that there is merit in that approach.
I feel incredibly proud that our MASE (Mission Advancement through Special Events) program was so successful in 2016. We started MASE as another way to advance our own mission and vision by offering fellow nonprofits with a quality, meaningful space for meetings and events at a reduced cost. We created opportunities for other organizations to draw inspiration from this authentic place so that they could advance their missions in service to their communities, and we have developed great partnerships as a result.
My favorite memory of working for the Cottage this past year was recording our “Jeopardy!” hometown howdies. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!
I have only been on the team for a few months, but I’ve already made so many memories to choose from! My favorite Cottage memory so far would have to be the Freedom 5K back in September. That was the first major project I worked on when I started at President Lincoln’s Cottage and I was so pleased with how successful it was. Also I loved all of the prep work I got to do for that event! Exploring the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home was really special for me and I got a real crash course in how special and unique this area of DC is.
One of the best moments was when we transformed Lincoln’s drawing room into a comedy den during the Two Faces Comedy Series with the DC Improv. Often times the conversation about Lincoln turns serious; slavery, the Civil War, assassination — these are all incredibly heavy topics. But while the drawing room no doubt saw its fair share of serious conversations, I like to think it also held snippets of laughter, joy, and togetherness. I like to think Lincoln would be happy to see we were using the space for laughter and light-heartedness in a time when we all needed it.
My favorite 2016 Cottage moment was when we kept our doors open late on November 9. Seeing the DC community come together in the ways they did that night in order to reflect on their own lives and draw inspiration from Lincoln was very powerful.
My favorite 2016 Cottage moment was in general getting to connect with both current colleagues — for example on the staff retreat — as well as getting to know new coworkers and MPAs.