Carol Ward got back in touch with me to give me an update on her activities and whereabouts. She’s an interesting and smart person who has been consistently doing interesting and smart things for many years. She worked at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in NYC for a decade, ultimately leading the historical site to record attendance. In recent years, she’s been working at One River in Larchmont, New York, overseeing business, education, and administrative projects, while making it all look easy. The latest news is a new job in a different state; here’s what she had to say when we caught up on the phone:
Date: October 6, 2021
So you moved to Lexington, Massachusetts?
Yes, about a month ago.
Do you know anyone there?
No, I know no one. It’s an adventure. And my apartment is over double the size of my last apartment in Riverdale. It’s good, it was time for a change. I’d been at One River for four years, and now I’m back in the museum world of historic houses. It seemed like an exciting opportunity.
So, now you are the Executive Director for the Lexington Historical Society. Tell me about what you’re doing, please!
The cool thing is that this is where the American Revolution started.
Lexington and Concord!
Yes, the better half!
We start at 1775 and much like at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the organization wants to bring the history forward. There’s a lot of art in our collection and we also want to cover contemporary situations and issues. We’ll be reaching out to diverse audiences, figuring out how we are going to continue the story through today.
That sounds like a tall order. You have a lot to do.
Yes, there are four sites to manage. Three historic houses. They have all been restored recently and are in good condition. The interpretations are really solid. There’s Buckman Tavern–American, in April 1775. And the Munroe Tavern, which was on the British side. So there are two different perspectives.
And you have them both.
Yes! And the Hancock-Clarke House...that was the house Paul Revere rode up to.
What’s the fourth site?
That’s going to be my pet project, I think. My office is here. It’s the Lexington Depot, the old railroad depot, bought in the late 1950s. It’s a blank slate, an event space, used for cocktail parties and weddings and parties. It screams to be an educational exhibition space. So I’m going to be doing some fundraising, and the hope is to use our permanent art collection to pair with some contemporary art.
And will you still have events there?
Yes, we will have rentals for events and also will be designing educational exhibits. It’s a big project.
What do you envision?
It’s too early to see what it will look like yet. Funding will definitely play a role in what we will be able to do. I’m hoping for some private funding, from grants and corporate sponsorship. But it’s not a rush. The main benchmark is the upcoming 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, in 2025. There will be a lot of events and projects associated with that.
I’m old enough to remember 1976 and the bicentennial, which was a very big deal. I hadn’t really thought about the 250th anniversary yet!
So, I see you are once again combining visual arts with history?
Yes, 100% yes! This goes back to the shows we did at Morris-Jumel (you remember the Shonibare one) and to the work I’ve done as a consultant. The really nice thing is that the board is supportive of these ideas, the fundraising for them, and folding this work into our mission. We’re only 25 minutes from Boston and I’m hoping we can establish relationships with the Museum of Fine Arts there, and with other local arts organizations, and partner with them. There’s a group called LexArt–I want to work with them and offer programming to the community and engage new people.
It sounds very exciting.
So, I know the area near you is also rich in literary history. I think of Thoreau and Walden Pond and Emerson and Louisa May Alcott.
Yes, the big names are more on the Concord side, but we do have a book club here and we bring in local and national authors–we can bring in the big guns in the historical literary world.
It all sounds great, and you have your work cut out for you.
I have 20 billion ideas. It’s really exciting. My job had become more administration-focused and not as creative. I’m back on the creative and operations side and all of my pistons are going.
And we’re only a three and a half hour trip from New York.
So you can go back there for inspiration pretty easily. Anything else you want to tell us about what you’re working on?
Probably! It’s so new I’m still wrapping my head around everything. But there’s a big world outside of New York City; there are plenty of other places in the country with a lot going on in the museum and art world. Other sites do need support and the spotlight. I need to bring the spotlight here.
Well, once COVID allows such things, maybe I’ll manage to make it up to one of your events.
You can be a gala VIP!
Awesome! When are you going to be able to do that kind of thing again, do you know?
Our first fundraiser will be in February. We’ll be doing a history of chocolate exhibition and associated programming.
That sounds fun. And delicious! Is there a large annual fundraising event?
Yes, pre-COVID. But we are going to do it again in 2022. Date yet to be determined.
Do you know Boston well?
I do know Boston fairly well, and I’m actually also looking forward to exploring the towns around here. A lot of cute towns with nice shops and restaurants. I’m saving Boston until after I know the immediate area a little better.
Okay, best of luck to you! It was great catching up and I hope to hear more about what you are up to soon! Thanks for talking with me today.
More Catching Up by Laura LaVelle
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and two cockatiels. Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Images Courtesy of Carole Ward