Sunday, March 15, 2009
An Emotional Tire Swing of a Weekend
Behold the "extensive grounds" and "happily situated" Winterthur museum and estate. Even in cold gray weather it's an impressive setting. The 7 (or is it 9?) story house houses early American furniture, rugs, art, and tableware by the truckload. Henry Francis Dupont collected it all after he got bitten by the antiques bug.
Needless to say, arriving there after a day of intense grant writing about poor people was serious culture shock. When I heard the other interviewees nerd-out over silver marks and ceramics, I felt in way over my head. I did my best to tread water, selling myself as the plucky church architecture enthusiast with lots of raw talent and love for museums. In interviews, I was pleased to realize that I have the makings of a good writer and educator. I wanted to start giving museum tours that minute. Whether Winterthur and I are right for each other remains to be seen, though.
On the postive side, everyone there is wonderfully friendly and kind. The faculty were nothing if not encouraging. They spent hours getting to know everyone, including a "speed dating" swanky dinner at a country club where they rotate tables at the change of every course. The current students, or Fellows, were also amazing. With snacks, coloring pages, play-doh, and tours through the museum, they kept us from going insane. Each class has a great sense of fun and comraderie. They also wear lots of cardigans and and old-fashioned-looking jewelry - my kind of wardrobe!
It was so wonderful to be back in the land where a person's favorite Founding Father is not only a legitimate conversation topic, it tells a lot about a person. (Luckily most of us agreed that Thomas Jefferson was a jerk who would toolishly own a Snuggie were he alive today.) It was exhilarating to proudly proclaim myself a Virginian and an historian.
On the other hand, there were many, many moments when things did not feel right. Unlike some of my peers, I did not gaze upon acres of furniture and feel that this was my calling in life. I do not currently give a care about metal curating or ships anchors or needlepoint or china patterns. Does all that stuff really matter to anyone? The beauty-loving and social-justice-loving halves of me were at war. It was jarring to finally visit a place I had revered for so long, and not immediately feel at home.
They call me with their decision tomorrow, so we'll see what God's will is for this one.