This blog post is part of a new series on the Carrousel Courier called Remember When. These posts are written by our staff, volunteers, and fans on memories of carousels and amusement. See how these memories have influenced us to this day. Interested in sharing a fond memory of your own? Leave a comment or email Ian K. Seppala at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Ian K. Seppala
As I began to write this series for the Museum, I started to notice how important carousels (and amusement in general) have been in my life. Today I want to share how important the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum and its number one special carousel have been to me.
After graduating from SUNY Brockport in the Fall of 2014 I wanted to find a place to gain experience before graduate school. I was going to become a history teacher, like I had dreamed since I was a child. My then girlfriend Tanya suggested this place by her parents recently purchased home. "It looks like a museum" she said. This casual suggestion would change our lives.
After being given a chance by then Director Rae Proefrock, I became a docent (tour guide) at the museum. I fell in love with museum work. It was amazing to be able to educate interested visitors in a casual setting. At this time I met the museum's new Education Director, Megan Hahin. She and I would develop a strong working relationship that would prove important down the road. I changed my career path because of the museum and went to graduate school for museum studies. I would volunteer at the museum when I was home. In the mean time I worked at various museums in Baltimore (where I attended Morgan State University) learning the different aspects of museums.
After graduation and in the summer of 2017 we had a family emergency in which Tanya and I made the decision to move home. We moved in with her mother, two blocks from the museum. As I struggled looking for full-time work I was able to intern under Megan at the museum. I conducted tours again and did programming for the education department during the school year. This gave me an opportunity to continue gaining experience in the field. It also gave me confidence at a time I felt inadequate.
As the internship ended in the spring of 2018, I got a job at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in the summer. I was excited and happy but sad to be leaving such an important place in my life. However, In the fall I received a call. Rae had decided to retire (she was later voted onto the museum's board) and Megan was chosen to take her place. I remember sitting in my office in Rochester when I got a phone call. Megan said she got the job, and only wanted me to take her role as the Education Director. I interviewed for the position and was offered. I had a decision to make.
At one hand I was in arguably a better place. I was at a larger museum with a significant education staff who were all helpful and wonderful co-workers. There was possible room for upward mobility. However the opportunity to go back and positively impact the museum and community that supported me was too good to pass up. I wanted to make my mark on HCFM and North Tonawanda, and I was getting my chance.
I have been the Education Director since October 2018. During that time we have increased our education staff (Adding Jenna through a Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Grant); increased our in-school and after school programming and developed new and exciting educational aspects within the museum.
In personal news Tanya and I got married in July, 2019 after having her bridal shower at the museum. We have moved out of North Tonawanda but still visit regularly and consider it our second home. We have added a dog to our family, and countless museum staff and volunteers. No matter where life takes us, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum will have a special place in our hearts.
Ian K. Seppala is the Education Director of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. He enjoys educating the public in local history and how history and science combine. He is also an avid sports fan and outdoorsman.