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Nolan Cool

 

M.A. Candidate

Fields: Public History, Early America, Colonial Latin America
Education: B.A., History, Utica College
Interests: Public History, Historic House Museums, Atlantic World, New York State History, Digital History, Cemetery Preservation

As a lifelong inhabitant of Upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley, a historically rich “middle ground,” I’ve always found change over time as it relates to people, communities, and the landscape, a fascinating concept. While attending community college, I spent my summers traveling to and experiencing New York’s abundant historic sites, museums, and cultural organizations, many of which rarely find their way into the public spotlight. Through actively pursuing different experiences across the state’s historical landscape, alongside a (relatively safe) addiction to historical research, public history clicked for me as my time as an undergrad wrapped up.

At the end of 2015, I received my B.A. in history from Utica College, a small institution in Central New York. At UC, I have the school’s exceedingly supportive history department to thank for guiding me into public history. During my time there, I interned at the Utica College Center for Historical Research (CHR), where I spent nearly two years working with Professor David Wittner to develop, manage, and sustain the CHR's Digital History Project. I also managed the public side of our small operation through social media and outreach. With the Digital History Project, the CHR works with the Mohawk Valley community to digitize, catalog, upload, and share documents and artifacts relating to the history of Central New York and its people. My involvement in this intensely useful experience provided me with the knowledge to operate a functional and successful public history and community service project. I carried my experience with digitization, social media, and wacky ideas with me to a summer 2016 internship at Hyde Hall, a historic mansion in Cooperstown, New York. Here, I worked to make the richly-detailed George Hyde Clarke Family Papers available to the public online, while also exploring the ins-and-outs of historic house museum management. This past summer, I carried that experience to the Stone House Museum in Belchertown, Massachusetts, where I worked to explore how to make small museums more relevant to its surrounding community. Through interning at the Stone House, I also worked closely with the Pioneer Valley History Network to challenge local history museums and historical societies to rethink their collections, interpretation, and the visitor experience.

Lastly, over the past year I have consulted on two preservation projects in Holyoke, MA and Leverett, MA. Both centered on cataloging city and town cemeteries for the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), a state-wide cultural resource database. Completing this work allowed me to survey and experience the interaction between public history and local government, a relationship that played out in the graveyard. Together with the Holyoke Historical Commission, Leverett Historical Society, and Leverett Cemetery Association, I helped create necessary MACRIS documentation constituting the basis for future preservation grant funding and potential National Register of Historic Places nominations in the future.

Apart from my work exploring possibilities in historic house museums or traversing New England’s graveyards, I focus my historical studies on the field of Early America, in particular, colonial and early New York State history. As an active public historian, I have aspirations to pursue work at an active, community-driven historic house museum in the near future.

ncool@umass.edu
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