Alumni Spotlight

Emily McEwen ’05
Programming and Exhibits Assistant 
Cowlitz County Historical Museum

Whittier College alumna Emily McEwen is a Poet who kicked her history degree into high gear right after graduation, and who, years later, hasn’t released her foot from the pedal.

After graduating from Whittier in 2005, McEwen returned to her hometown of Longview, Washington, where she began working at the Cowlitz County Historical Museum as the Programming and Exhibits Assistant. There, she was responsible for assisting with cataloging artifacts, researching new exhibits, and helping to plan public programs, and came to suspect that the museum curatorial field was the direction to go in to find her ultimate career.

Inspired, McEwen decided to dig deeper into her history interest and enrolled at the University of California, Riverside to work towards a masters degree and later her Ph.D. in public history.

“Public history is the study of how history is interpreted and presented to public audiences - i.e. in places like museums, National Parks, archival repositories, historic sites, etc.” McEwen explains.

To satisfy the requirements for her masters, McEwen began an internship and later became the Curator of History at the National Historic Landmark Mission Inn Hotel, located in Riverside, CA, through the non-profit Mission Inn Foundation & Museum.

“The original owner of the Mission Inn was a prodigious collector who amassed thousands of artifacts and art pieces from around the world, many of which are still housed at the Inn today.”  Surrounded by an atmosphere where history was preserved, but at the same time came alive, McEwen took charge of the Inn’s public history endeavors by researching and designing exhibitions, as well as creating educational and monthly lectures and workshops.

McEwen remained curator while she worked towards her Ph.D., but later left to concentrate on her doctoral dissertation. However, she has kept close ties with the Inn, as her dissertation explores its public history.  

“[In my dissertation,] I am exploring the collecting and display practices of the Inn's owner to show the hotel's links to much broader histories of imperialism and museum-building in the United States. I am also analyzing the Inn's problematic public/private partnerships and how this affects what kind of history is told (or silenced) at the Inn.”

Looking back, McEwen is especially thankful for her Whittier College education.  

“Each of my undergraduate history courses required near constant writing. My professors took so much time writing comments, providing feedback, and critiquing my papers. The amount of writing required of me while at Whittier often seemed overwhelming, but now I honestly can't thank my professors enough for their writing intensive courses!”

As McEwen’s continues on her journey of success, Whittier College will always remain on her roadmap. It was Whittier that put the keys in her hand. 

-Are you a graduate of the History Department and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at therock@whittier.edu.

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