In Memoriam: Gregory Schwarz, 1951-2020

In the very first year of Enfield Shaker Museum’s existence, when then-director Carolyn Smith’s desk was a folding table in the Great Stone Dwelling’s front hall, a young historian walked in to introduce himself.

That young historian was Greg Schwarz, and the Museum is all the richer for his friendship and contributions and, now, all the poorer for his passing. As one of the Museum’s first board members, Greg quickly took on many of the tasks necessary to ensure the Museum’s success. He brought to these tasks a stellar breadth of knowledge and experience: bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, expertise gained at the Dartmouth College Museum and Hood Museum, then as president of the Woodstock Historical Society, and finally as Chief of Interpretation at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.

At Enfield Shaker Museum, Greg lent his curatorial knowledge and experience to establish our collections policy and procedures, and acted as a wonderful “Museum Studies 101” instructor for our early staff members and volunteers. The photograph reproduced here captures Greg in 1987, when he organized an archaeological excavation on the Enfield Shakers’ Feast Ground on Mount Assurance. To say that Greg has been an active member of the Museum family is an understatement. What he accomplished for the Museum since the earliest years of its existence deepened our understanding of the Shakers at Enfield and continues to shape our interpretation.

I first met Greg when I interviewed for the Museum’s directorship. From the start I knew I could learn so much from this kind, thoughtful, history-loving individual. A passing mention of my work with World War I posters led to a larger, longer discussion about the interplay of art and history, one that I immensely enjoyed. (I even got to hear about Greg’s famous paper clip collection!) I appreciated deeply Greg’s interest in my research and perspectives, which showed such great respect for another’s insights. Such is the trait of curiosity which, by definition, belongs to the open-minded.

Curiosity and curator share the Latin root cura, which means “to see,” “to care,” and “to help.”  In his life Greg was the complete curator: seeking to know and understand and to aid others to do the same. How lucky we are that he walked into the Great Stone Dwelling those many years ago.

Shirley Wajda, Interim Executive Director