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Hamilton's Chapel glows in the fog.
More than a dozen professionals from museums in central New York came together on College Hill on November 15 to talk about their collections and missions with faculty and other members of the Hamilton community interested in the College’s new curatorial studies initiative.

The symposium, “Experiential Learning: Working with Collections and Archives,” was the inaugural event funded by a recent $150,000 grant that the College received from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant was awarded for a new curricular effort that will connect students and faculty with regional cultural institutions, as well as the College’s Wellin Museum of Art, and Burke Library’s Special Collections.

"A minor in curatorial studies will be based on interdisciplinary coursework and offer a range of opportunities for Hamilton students to gain first-hand experience in archives, museums, and special collections working with artifacts, works of art, archival materials, and rare books," said Thomas Wilson, Hamilton’s Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies. Wilson co-authored the NEH grant proposal with Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies Marissa Ambio, and both serve as the project’s directors.

Four museums are partnering with Hamilton to create experiential learning opportunities, including engagement with museum programming, internships, and independent research. These museums include the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse), Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown), Museum of Science & Technology (MOST, Syracuse), and Munson Museum of Art (Utica).

"Participants discussed the role of experiential learning in students' educational trajectory as well as career paths," Ambio said. "In addition to serving as a forum for discussion, the event brought together museum partners, fostering a professional community. The symposium is the first of many gatherings in which museum partners, faculty, and professionals can explore collaborative efforts." 

“This gathering might well be unprecedented at the College and offers eloquent testimony to the flourishing cultural life of central New York, from Syracuse to Utica and Cooperstown to Clinton,” Wilson added.

In addition to Ambio and Wilson, several faculty and staff members are members of the Curatorial Studies Initiative Planning Committee: Assistant Professor of History Mackenzie Cooley, Associate Professor of Art Rob Knight, Assistant Professor of Art History Laura Tillery, Johnson-Pote Director of Wellin Museum of Art Tracy Adler, and Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives Christian Goodwillie. Clare Fitzgerald, a curator, teacher, and researcher, is serving as the project consultant.

The Dean of Faculty’s Office also provided funding for the symposium.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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