Since Saturday, February 22 is National Curator Day, Old Economy Village’s blogger will not be writing her weekly blog. Instead, this blog is being written by Mary DeMars, Marketing and Development Associate and it is going to be about the blogger, Sarah.
Sarah Buffington is Old Economy Village’s Curator. Sarah’s job is complex. Visitors to Old Economy Village will see her exhibits and researchers will meet with her for assistance. A lot of the job of being a Curator is to be behind the scenes. Sarah’s responsibilities include, making exhibits, assisting researchers, taking care of the collections, cataloguing new acquisitions, handling loans to Old Economy Village and items that are loaned out from Old Economy Village, cleaning artifacts (which include the buildings), making sure the archives are in order and accessible, creating the archival database online, helping with events, working on the Rapp Houses restoration, continuing to move the collections that are stored upstairs to the collection storage rooms in the Visitor Center, and much more.
Sarah grew up not interested in history. Family trips were usually going to Civil War battlefields and Sarah said she didn’t get it. It wasn’t until an eighth grade field trip to Greenfield Village that she got it. Sarah only remembers the Daggot Farm (1760 house) and a woman cooking or doing something in the back room and a guy walked in asking if this woman needed any firewood. That memory has stayed with her. It was after that field trip that Sarah began Civil War reenacting. She loved learning history by doing. It was a way to learn different perspectives.
Sarah went to Michigan State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design and Textiles with an emphasis in history, which they don’t offer anymore. She said that she took every opportunity to learn something new. While at MSU she worked in the clothing collection of the College of Home Economics. She also worked at the MSU Museum in the curatorial department, folk arts division, and exhibits division. She also was the costume manager for MSU. After college she became a seamstress for Greenfield Village. She met her husband, Scot while working on a Civil War film on Antietam. She moved to the Western Pennsylvania region to be closer to Scot and worked at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. While living here she volunteered for an event at Old Economy Village. Scot met, then-Site Administrator, Mary Ann Landis and told her about Sarah. Mary Ann told Sarah to take the Civil Service exam and Sarah passed was hired. Sarah has worked at Old Economy Village since June of 2002.
Sarah’s interests in history have expanded since working at Old Economy Village. “I am a jack of all trades,” she said. “I am now interested in red ware pottery, furniture, the archives, and of course textiles.” Something interesting about Sarah is that she loves historic cookbooks. She has a crazy collection at home and enjoys learning about historic ways of cooking.
Sarah’s one true love will always be textiles and is eagerly creating an exhibit on textiles that is scheduled to open Mother’s Day weekend. Sarah said that she is excited for this exhibit because people rarely see textiles on exhibit. They are so sensitive and are easily damaged. The rule of thumb for putting textiles on exhibit is a textile may be on exhibit for three months but then has to rest, which means stay in storage for seven years. This exhibit will be a big deal because many pieces in the textile collection storage will be on display and will probably not be seen for another seven years at least.
In closing since this blog is really about the Rapp Houses, Sarah said her favorite part about the Rapp Houses project was all the discoveries going on. Every day there seems to be something new. Sarah’s favorite discovery is the evidence of the staircase in the formal dining room. Come back next week and see what new discoveries have been made during the Rapp Houses restoration project.