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Cobblestone Museum director has passion for era

Story courtesy of Jim Krencik of the Batavia Daily News – February 11, 2016

CHILDS — In looking for a director for their museum, the Cobblestone Society assumed they’d need someone who can grow into the position.

With Taylor Daughton, they found someone who’s young and energetic, but also won’t need any on-the-job training to appreciate and share their passion for the era where cobblestone masonry was more than a historic treasure.

Daughton — who started her role as director and curator of the Ridge Road museum complex Monday — has focused her major graduate school work on early and middle 19th century American life. It was around the home, including the cluster of cobblestones built around western New York, that the epicenter of a cultural shift occurred between the early settler era, and the growth of thriving communities.

“In the 19th century, culture developed around the parlor, the living room,” Daughton said. “It’s where families gathered, where they received guests.”

The parlors were a generator of relationships and the development of ideas about nature and morality, with people thinking about their role in society.

“This is where ideas of nationhood came from — sitting around the fireplace,” she said.

Daughton’s interest in history came stemmed out of growing up in a 1860s farmhouse in the town of Greece. It wasn’t a cobblestone, but she remembers being intrigued by the handful of cobblestone buildings around town. They were a curiosity, but seeing the Cobblestone Society campus made an instant connection.

In the Ward House, a 1840 fieldstone on the museum’s grounds, Daughton sees room to bring life to her expertise.

“There’s a lot of potential, even now,” Dawson said. “We can change some of the dishware, the accents around the house.

“I’m fascinated by the house … I want to change it up, make it interesting, not static.”

The museum opens for the year on Mother’s Day, with an exhibit on “The Lost Generation” that fought in the First World War carried over from last fall.

Cobblestone Society President Matthew Ballard said Daughton will curate several exhibits this autumn.

In the meantime, Ballard and multiple volunteer-led committees plan to use 2016 to develop a strategic plan for the structure, mission and focus of the museum for the next three to ten years.

“We’re laying the groundwork for the museum’s future,” Ballard said.

With approximately $5,000 in grants from the Dunn Martin Fund and the Elisabeth Dye Curtis Foundation, the Cobblestone Society plans to launch what Ballard estimated to be a $30,000 to $35,000 multi-year project to restore windows of the Childs Universalist Church, which houses the main museum exhibits.

It’s an uncomfortable thing to talk about, Ballard said, but the organization has buildings three times as old as its own 55-year history. They need constant care and upkeep, like a 2014 project that repaired the roof of the church.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever be done tackling (the upkeep), but with the strategic plan and active committees, we’ll have a better sense of what we need,” Ballard said, “and we can be proactive in tackling projects.”

As director, Daughton will also be tasked with building relationships with major donors, individual and corporate; and the visitors, supporters and history buffs who take in the museum each year. She’s now the manager and the public face of the museum.

“I hope to bring the local community back into play, and really address that this is a national landmark, and something the local community should be proud about,” Daughton said.

Daughton is completing a master’s degree in American history and public history at SUNY Brockport.

She has previously worked and interned at places including the Rochester Museum & Science Center and the George Eastman Museum.

“What pushed us to Taylor was that while there are certain things we can teach her, and she can pick up in the field, the interest and general expertise of the time period we represent here, that might take someone a couple years to pick up — she’s coming in right with that,” Ballard said. “There’s an energy, a passion, just a general interest and excitement we saw in her.”

“She can sell the museum, because she herself has bought into what we have here.”