North Adams Partnership, North Adams, MA
The North Adams Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding in the development and economic renewal of the city of North Adams. The group is run by John DeRosa, a founder of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), and involves a number of individuals who also participate in the museum, many museum trustees, and city government officials. DeRosa and his friends developed the idea that a book should be written about the history of MASS MoCA. It was on the earliest stages of this book project that I and my co-intern worked. Our task for the summer was to do a significant amount of the research that would be necessary to write the MASS MoCA book, and to compile this into a proposal that could be submitted to a prospective author or a publisher—a pitch for the book, as well as an outline of the story.
We began the summer by researching the history of North Adams. This meant reading a lot of work by local historians, some oral histories, and other relevant literature. We wrote reports on a few of the historical factors that would eventually influence MASS MoCA: the early industrial history of North Adams as a mill town, and later as the home of Sprague Electric Company (whose former factories MoCA now inhabits); the urban renewal projects of the 1960s, which devastated downtown North Adams and are widely regarded as failures; and the cultural context of the preceding decades, particularly focusing on trends in the museum world and public arts funding. After that, we spent the bulk of the summer conducting interviews with people involved in the founding of MASS MoCA. These often involved significant preparation, as we worked with DeRosa to write questions in advance. The recordings and transcriptions of these interviews were a significant product of our work this summer. They informed our final book proposal, but will also be a resource for whoever ends up writing the book.
I had two personal goals for this internship: the first was that it would allow me to explore the museum profession, both by conducting deep research into the founding and operation of museums, and by talking to leaders in the field to get a sense of them and their jobs. The internship was perfect for this sort of career exploration, and I came away still interested in the field, but not enchanted with it. This was not a complete surprise, and although I do not see myself as a future museum professional, the summer was still quite productive. I also achieved my second goal: the internship allowed me to do research that will continue to inform my academic career. Speaking to museum professionals about the theoretical trends of the museum world was directly relevant to my broader academic work in history.
For all this, I am extremely thankful to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and to the Kraft Family, without their generous support of this program none of my work this summer would have been possible.