Ketcham-Geeting Attends Presidential Sites Summit
by Kristina Garvelink (M.S. ’15)
For Hope Ketcham-Geeting (B.A. ’18), the study of history involves more than reading source material cited in textbooks. To date, her college experience has included internships with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Rapids Public Library and participation in the White House Historical Association's Presidential Sites Summit.
"Hope exemplifies what CU exists to do, what we wish to accomplish with our students," Dr. Erik Benson, associate professor of history, remarked. "In terms of her studies, she has been remarkably dedicated in pursuing knowledge and cultivating professional skills. Moreover, she has shown tremendous initiative in taking advantage of the many opportunities to apply these in our program at CU, the larger Grand Rapids community and farther afield. As a result, she has well positioned herself to be a person of influence in her future endeavors."
The Presidential Sites Summit, a biennial conference hosted by the White House Historical Association which was founded by Jackie Kennedy, unites museum professionals and well-known historians across political party lines to discuss topics related to the preservation of presidential history. Invited to attend the conference in August 2018 as one of 14 scholarship recipients, Ketcham-Geeting appreciated the unique opportunity to network with museum professionals and explore her interest in presidential history which started at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.
"Jackie sought to preserve the White House and restore it as a museum of American history, hiring the White House's first curator," Ketcham-Geeting said. "Fifty-seven years later, her legacy has found new meaning to me as a young female museum professional. I think what is most inspirational about Jackie's dedication is that it shows a woman who desired to influence history in a powerful way, primarily by contributing to its preservation."
While in Washington, D.C., Ketcham-Geeting learned from leading historians such as Jon Meacham and Cokie Roberts, previous White House staffers and museum professionals. Session topics included digitization, preservation and legacy. In addition, the four-day conference included tours of the White House, National Cathedral, National Archives and Library of Congress and a White House reception hosted by President and Mrs. Trump.
"One of the most meaningful panels of the week was on presidential descendants," Ketcham-Geeting noted. "Descendants spanning from John Tyler, America's 10th president, to George W. Bush shared their stories of life in the White House."
With aspirations to work in a museum and attend graduate school, Ketcham-Geeting values the networking connections she gained during her time in Washington, D.C.
"As I reflect on my experience, I find myself incredibly thankful for this opportunity," Ketcham-Geeting concluded. "I am also thankful for my roots in a city like Grand Rapids that gave me the history of Gerald R. Ford at such an early age and guided me through my first professional internship. Walking through the White House and seeing Betty Ford's portrait outside of the Oval Office was a humbling moment. The professionals who have encouraged me on this journey both in Grand Rapids and D.C. are invaluable and make my field one I am very excited to be a part of."