Hello! I’m Melanie Stringer, an interdisciplinary historian, museum specialist, living history interpreter, former customer service manager, and a lifelong New Englander. Taking every opportunity for continuous learning, I have a penchant for long-distance research road trips, historic cemetery preservation, hiking in the White Mountains, attending concerts, cheering on my favorite baseball team (I’ll let you guess which one!), collecting antique schoolbooks, and delving into the nuances of local histories all over the country. I’m delighted to say I can now add my new role, working as Windsor Historical Society’s Program Director, to that list.
Working in museums was a longtime aspiration, but I took the scenic route to get here. Born and bred in New Hampshire, I have an abiding love for New England’s landscape and history; by contrast, I’ve been intrigued by the American West since early childhood, inspired by learning to read with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series of novels. A museum field trip as a fifth grader solidified my budding historical interest, and soon I was researching Wilder with the help of a very patient librarian. To this day, I prioritize understanding how context of place and time affect people’s experiences.
Museums are my second, and some might say third, career. Quite by accident, I found myself working in customer service management for many years as I attended college part time. Shortly after completing a BA in English with a minor in history at Plymouth State University in 2009, and after decades of studying Wilder, I left the corporate world and launched a solo living history business, Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder/Dakota Yankee Research. I designed and presented fully interactive programs where guests had the opportunity to engage with me while in the persona of “Mrs. Wilder” circa 1894, representing the author in the context of her life before she ever put pen to paper to fictionalize family stories. To date, I’ve presented over 300 programs at museums, schools, libraries, community events, and nonprofit fundraisers in nine states from New England to the Dakotas.
When I wasn’t on the road, you’d find me taking graduate classes and working various roles in museums and nonprofit organizations to broaden my practical skills. Leading tours, organizing and managing conferences and public events, running gift shops, and performing committee work for organizations like Trustees of Reservations/The Old Manse, The Thoreau Society, Almanzo Wilder Farm, and Old Sturbridge Village are just some of the experiences on my CV. I’m particularly proud of earning a master’s in museum studies from Harvard University in 2019, and of my contributions to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy & Research Association, where I volunteered from 2011-2020 and served 5 years on the Board of Directors. I’ve assisted with projects as a consultant for small museums in New York, Minnesota, and New Hampshire while holding staff positions at organizations around Massachusetts—most recently as Engagement and Events Manager at Historic Beverly.
Throughout this eclectic career within history and museum spaces, I’ve designed, managed, and presented public history programs and projects for audiences of all ages and interests. It is with this foundation that I’m embarking on my latest challenge, becoming acquainted with the long history and vibrant modern community of Windsor and growing the range and audience of programs we present at Windsor Historical Society.
I’m overjoyed to be here and find the devotion of the Society’s staff, board, volunteers, and members an inspiration. If we haven’t met, please stop by and say hello! I’d love to hear your ideas about how WHS can add or enhance programming that will keep you engaged and proud of everything Windsor has to offer.
By Melanie Stringer, program director, 2022