preisslerkWhat a pleasure it is for me to join the team here at Wistariahurst just as the summer is arriving and the gardens are blooming with life.

As I take on the role of Director, I have many reasons to be excited and energized: a valued historic site and archive to steward; a dynamic set of stories to tell (and many more to continue to unearth); talented and engaged staff and volunteers to work alongside; and a vibrant community in Holyoke, taking action to build a better future.

For the last decade, my education and career have focused on the connections people forge with the past by means of place, story, and community. In my work I have seen young children laugh as they learn croquet on the grounds of an historic estate; observed teenagers enthusiastically research and reveal the stories hidden across a cultural landscape; and worked alongside a volunteer who spent ten years of his life cataloging the items tucked away in the closets and drawers of a landmark home. In addition to my own observations, new data released by The Institute of Museum and Library Services reveals the good news that there are more museums in the United States than Starbucks and McDonalds combined! Most are small, community-based organizations supported on a local level. Museums like ours continue to thrive, not as luxuries, but as elements crucial to healthy, resilient communities.

Wistariahurst is a museum that has established a reputation for staying fresh, alive and vibrant – inside its walls and out. My own experiences as a visitor here have run the gamut from making dinosaur footprint stamps with kids to hearing a former CCC member talk of his time with the corps on Mt. Tom. I look forward to supporting the interdisciplinary focus of the site – with programs and exhibits featuring fine art, performance, history, horticulture and more.

In the coming years I hope to see Wistariahurst’s connections with Holyoke’s residents deepen and its visibility beyond the city grow, drawing people from across the Pioneer Valley into the community. I’d like Wistariahurst to join with the growing number of Museums across the country who are speaking up for social justice, using the safety of their spaces to facilitate conversations and community learning. Throughout my career I have maintained a commitment to making the cultural community more accessible to people of all ages, ability levels, socioeconomic status, and cultural backgrounds and I see the potential for Wistariahurst to be a role model for inclusive museums far beyond the Pioneer Valley.

It is already clear to me that Wistariahurst’s great strength lies in its staff, members, volunteers, and visitors and I am proud and honored to be welcomed into your ranks.

Kate Preissler