My name is Elizabeth Diker and I have come to West Virginia from New York City by way of six years at the University of Delaware, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in art conservation and art history and a master’s degree in historic preservation and museum studies. As you can imagine, Glen Dale, West Virginia is very different from New York City in all sorts of ways! I am very much enjoying getting to know the people and places of the area, and especially savoring the slower pace and friendliness. Not to mention the food. I was delighted to be selected to spend this year as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps at the Cockayne Farmstead as part of the PAWV family – it is a very special place. As a conservator and preservationist, I find Cockayne unique and noteworthy in that so much preservation has been done on the exterior of the structure and grounds, while the interior has remained pristine and unrestored. After documenting, photographing, and creating measured drawings for a number of structures in the mid-Atlantic, I can say with confidence that the interior of the Cockayne Farmstead has the highest level of integrity that I have seen so far in my fledgling career. I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Frank Vagone and Deborah Ryan, authors of the “Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums” where they challenged us to view historic house museums differently and think outside the lines of accepted museum practices. Armed with this knowledge and perspective, I am so excited to be a part of the conversation about how we can re-imagine Cockayne and elevate it to its fullest potential.
I am very interested in heritage tourism, and think that the Glen Dale/Moundsville/Wheeling area has a great deal of untapped potential for attracting both local visitors and tourists. Serving with the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff, I would like to try and boost Cockayne’s profile and entice more people to visit. Cockayne has a large and varied collection that is ready to be cataloged and conserved, which are my special areas of expertise, and I am fortunate to have the support of the entire University of Delaware Museum Studies SWAT Team behind me in the event any particularly challenging problems arise. I am hoping to leave Cockayne next year with a solid collections management plan and to have provided training to the staff and volunteers on the best practices of stewarding the collection.
Since coming to Cockayne in August, I have made the acquaintance of two wonderful dogs and many people. My boyfriend Zach and I have spent two weeks being tourists in the area, and it has been amazing. Director Janell Keyser and the members of the board of Cockayne have been more than welcoming, even including me in meetings that have given me insight into what the hopes and plans are for the future of the site. I have even learned that there are paranormal happenings right here at Cockayne and will be sure to document every otherworldly experience. In just the month that I have been here, I have already participated in a workshop on historic window repair and attended a conference in Beverly with the entire PAWV team, and am very excited to see more of this beautiful state and hear about the ideas and experiences of the other members of PAWV team 2016.