2023 Curator Message

To the next curator:

Welcome to Camp Kawanhee! If you’ve read any of the other curator letters, you might already have an idea of just how special camp is. I’m happy to confirm that Kawanhee is unequivocally as magical as everyone says it is. Before I got to camp, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I came in knowing absolutely no one (besides Tom) and quite unsure what camp would be like, but I ended up having one of the most fun, memorable, and strangely beautiful summers of my life. Hopefully you will, too.

In the museum, most of the work I did was centered around generally improving accessibility. I finished scanning and uploading PDFs of the Kawanhee catalogs from 2001-2019 and the camp memory books from more recent years, so now every Kawanhee catalog (except 1941, which is still missing) is available for viewing online! This took a long time due to the scanner and computer being on the slower side, but I’m really glad I got to complete the scans. Accessibility is super important, and in order for alumni, campers, parents, and other visitors to engage meaningfully with camp’s history, the documents and artifacts we have in our archives should be formatted in accessible ways. Online, this means searchable PDFs (the technology isn’t 100% on this, but the vast majority of the documents I scanned are searchable, which is awesome!), and inside the museum it means legible and long-lasting signage. For the last few weeks of camp I worked on rewriting, reprinting, and reorganizing labels for pretty much everything in the museum. I ordered plastic label stands to replace the old labels, which were printed on unlaminated paper, always fell over, and were partially illegible due to water damage. Now the labels are all reinforced in plastic stands and will hopefully last for many years to come. There’s still a ton of work to be done in the museum, and I think there always will be. Not only are there a lot of photos and documents (specifically old Wigwams) that should be cataloged and uploaded to the Kawanhee history website, but the possibility of turning history into an official camp activity is something that past curators have made plans for. This would be a great way to get campers more involved with Kawanhee history beyond trivia and short visits to the museum. There are existing ideas for this in the museum and on the CK history Google drive, so if that’s something you’re interested in doing, referencing those notes is a great place to start!

In addition to being the 2023 History Museum Curator, I was also (unofficially) Camp Trivia Extraordinaire, which is an overdramatic way of saying that I covered history trivia for Mike while he was away from camp during the first few weeks, and I did mealtime trivia all summer. While this isn’t a requirement for the history intern – and it can definitely be nerve wracking to get up in front of the entire camp for the first time – I really, really loved doing trivia. Not only did I get to learn a bunch of super random facts, but it made me feel more engaged with the kids, who were always excited to answer the question (or take a guess) and win a prize. I found it helped me come out of my shell right away, and I would highly recommend that the history curator continue to do trivia (as long as Mike’s okay with it!) since it was such a fun part of the job for me.

Something that Tom is interested in adding to the curator position is the responsibility to help revive the Wigwam, a newsletter published during the camp season that details recent events. Camp hasn’t published a Wigwam in several years, so it would be great for the history curator to help bring it back. Tom is hoping that writing, editing, and formatting the Wigwam would comprise about 50% of the curator position in the upcoming year, which is definitely different than the work I did this past summer but super exciting and meaningful work! The first ever Wigwam is available on the Kawanhee website, and you can read more about the publication on the Wigwam page.

Outside of your work in the museum, I highly, highly recommend that you get as involved in the Kawanhee community as possible. So much of what made my summer special was the friendships I formed with the people I met at camp. Even though it can be scary at first, I encourage you to reach out to the counselors and other staff right away during pre-camp. Knowing your coworkers really well before the kids arrive makes it easier to adjust to the shift from pre-camp to the rest of the season, which happens fast and can be chaotic. There are so many incredible people working at camp, and becoming part of the tight-knit community basically guarantees that you’ll have a great summer.

On the more technical side of things, here’s a general idea of what living at camp was like: I lived in Skunk, one of the cabins in the barracks, where non-lodge staff stay. Skunk is a 4-bedroom cabin with a shared bathroom, and it’s definitely rustic (thin walls, obviously no heat/AC, etc.), but I really made my room my own and loved living there. The rooms are small, big enough for a twin bed and a dresser, but it’s also a good idea to bring a mini-fridge if you think you’d use it, which I did. To echo what Lexi said, I didn’t spend a ton of time in my room besides sleeping there, since I preferred to be outside taking part in camp activities whenever I could. It gets quite cold at the beginning and end of the season, so extra blankets are great, and a fan is pretty much a necessity for the middle of the summer when it’s hotter. I’d recommend trying as many camp activities as you can, swimming in the lake often, and doing polar bear in the morning if you’re not afraid of the cold! There’s so much to do at camp, and one of my only regrets is not making more of an effort to do it all before the season ended.

Rest assured that there’s truly room to explore any and all history-related interests you may have in the curator position, along with endless opportunities to contribute to Kawanhee’s long and beautiful history. I think at times I was overly concerned about my productivity this summer, trying to make sure I was doing enough tasks each day to live up to the curator title, but once I let myself pursue what I was interested in (mostly organizing the physical space, which I absolutely loved doing), I got lost in the work and had a ton of fun. I encourage you to do the same, and as long as you put your heart into it, whatever work you do will have a meaningful impact on the Kawanhee community.