Storrowton Village director to retire

3/23/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: March

Dennis Picard
Reminder Publications submitted photo

After nearly three decades as director of Storrowton Village, Dennis Picard is walking away.

But his career isn’t history just yet.

Picard, who has been with the living museum on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition for 27 years, said in his retirement he hoped to continue to pursue his passion for historical education without all of the “other stuff” that goes along with being the director.

“I am booked up. I just got a call today about doing another program,” he said with a smile. “I’m looking forward to being able to do a program and when it’s over not have to worry about whether all the lights were turned off or all the doors were locked.”

He added, “I love it here, but I’m looking forward to not having to be at the office every day and not have to oversee the activities. I’m really planning on doing a lot more of the programming that I like to do at other sites and not have to worry about the upkeep of the buildings and the day-to-day kind of thing.”

After beginning his career with Old Sturbridge Village and Hancock Shaker Village, Picard said he saw an opportunity with Storrowton Village to build upon a foundation that had a lot of promise.

“I had visited here – as a matter of fact, I got married here in 1979, so long before I ever thought I was going to work here – so I was familiar with the type of programming that went on here and with my experience I thought there was a lot of potential that wasn’t being tapped for whatever reason,“ he said. “When I saw the job listing, part of it was developing programming and making the most used out of the buildings and the assets that the Eastern States had. I saw it as a challenge and something I would enjoy doing.”

He’s not only enjoyed it; he’s helped the museum flourish.

Picard said one of his greatest achievements has been the creation of a diverse catalogue of programming, ranging from children’s activities such as the summer and school vacation camps, family-centric activities like Maple Days and adult education through programs like Storrowton in the Civil War.

While he oversaw the creation of these activities, Picard readily credited his volunteers for their existence.

“Certainly one of the challenges we have is working with all of the volunteer staff. That is a huge asset when it comes to their enthusiasm, but it can be a challenge because we’re dealing with such diverse schedules outside of here. Being able to coordinate all that and do all of the programs that we do here, I think that’s been very rewarding,” he said. “Doing the diversity of programming that we do helps to keep the volunteers interested because they have different interests, but it also helps us tap into different constituents and different parts of the public.”

In expanding the museum’s offerings, the village has been able to be “a lot of things to a lot of groups instead of everything to one group,” he added.

Over the years, Picard has visited and researched other museums in an attempt to find successful programs that might work at Storrowton.

“I’m a huge believer in not reinventing the wheel,” he said. “We don’t copycat things, but we think a good idea is a good idea and if it’s good, it’s worth evaluating to see if it would fit in with what we have here.”

Likewise, some of the village’s programs have been shared nationwide, such as Today’s Math in Yesterday’s Market, which was presented at a national conference in California.

While at times the public confuses the museum as a representative of the town of West Springfield and its Historical Society, the village is a part of the Eastern States exposition and having that support has also been invaluable, according to Picard.

“Having worked at other museums, it’s an advantage to us because we’re not operating on our own isolated,” Picard said. “We have an operations department, we have a marketing department, we’ve got all of these people working for Eastern States so we don’t have to worry about all of that. That frees us up and allows us to be creative with what we do.”

Picard also noted that while the village in independent from the town, he and his staff do coordinate with other groups. For example, the village’s volunteers have done programs at the Day House and was involved in the town’s celebration of the library’s 100th anniversary. In Agawam, the village has shared its programming with the Thomas Smith House and the Firehouse Museum.

“It’s a collegial group,” he said. “We’re all interested in history and when we have visitors come, why not share the wealth of what else is in the area. It’s a symbiotic relationship. People come here looking for a pie and we give them a slice, but there are other slices out there.”

Picard said he hopes to continue to have a role and provide programming at Storrowton, but said he would do only that with which his successor and the Eastern States Exposition were comfortable.

“I know what it’s like to come into some place that has had a specific focus and have someone looking over your shoulder,” he said. “That didn’t happen to me here, but I can certainly understand that feeling and I want to help whoever comes after me to be as comfortable and successful as they can be.”

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