Like many a professional historian, Pam Miner has more than one theory as to why something important occurred in the somewhat distant past. In this case, why the 1986 graduate of William Woods developed a love of history, which has led to a remarkable career.
It could have been an exceptional English teacher she had in high school in her hometown of Waverly, Illinois, who encouraged her reading and creative writing. It could have sprung from her time at The Woods, where she was guided to take history classes to learn research methods. Or it could even have been the house she grew up in.
“It was a 1974 Victorian house in a small town full of ‘old’ buildings,” Miner recalls. “Through study, I came to appreciate knowing more about our buildings – how we shape their existence and how they shape ours. This high-level thinking creates the opportunity to pay more homage to an essential part of life.”
Miner’s love of history and historical preservation has become just that – an essential part of her professional life. And after more than three decades in the field, she landed what would have to be the pinnacle of her career just last month, when she was appointed as the new Vice-President of Collections at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee. In her new position, her primary role is to oversee the collections, archaeology, reference services and exhibitions at the National Historic Landmark, one of the largest, most well-preserved and most visited presidential homes in the U.S. Opened to the public in 1889, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage is one of America’s first presidential museums.
“I was pleased to see the Curator of Collections position available at the Hermitage, and am honored to receive the opportunity,” she said. “I love providing the best care of the collections so that they can exist for us to continually draw out/find new stories to share.”
Gotta Get Back In Time
If one takes a look back at Miner’s own personal story, four influential years at William Woods, where she graduated with a degree in History in 1986, stand out.
“The spirit of learning, growing and joy was-ever present,” recalls Miner of her time at The Woods. “I met fabulous people, many are still good friends who continue to support me and to bring joy to my life.”
She remembers the comradery, whether in class, walking through campus, or in Tucker Dining Hall during the interlude at WWU. But perhaps more important to her was how the University helped prepare for a career.
“Being part of a group working towards the same goals, respecting and learning from my professors, spending time in class, competing assignments and creating a product – these experiences all prepared me to move through graduate school and then into a work environment understanding schedules, projects and results,” she says. “WWU allowed me to move on knowing much more about the world, and myself.”
Her experience at William Woods helped Miner at her next step, the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she earned her Master’s in History and Historic Preservation. While at Mizzou, she was chosen to serve as one of the first students assistants at the State Historical Society of Missouri, two years of great experience where she was able to learn deep research methodology and a strengthened focus on local history. Her work led to a position with the Missouri State Archives, where she worked for 12 years.
Looking for a change, Miner detoured to Florida, where she excelled in positions such as the Records Manager and Archivist for the City of Cape Coral; Curator for Edison and Ford Winter Estates; Adjunct Professor of History at Florida Southwestern State College and a number of positions with Collier County Museums in Naples, Florida. Along the way, she also became a published author – researching and writing “River and Road: Fort Myers Architecture from Craftsman to Modern,” which was published by the University of Florida Press in 2017. The book received the Florida Book Award Gold Medal in the Visual Arts category.
The Andrew Jackson Hermitage is a 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark with more than 20 historic buildings, including the mansion and tomb of America’s seventh president, restored slave cabins, a church and gardens. With more than 230,000 annual visitors, it is a must-see for those who love American and presidential history, which makes it a place where Pam Miner feels right at home overseeing its rather ancient collections and artifacts.
“I am grateful for being at an “office” that I can go outside. I take walks around the grounds and gardens and experience a mix of mother nature and man-made resources which continue to be purposeful and vibrant,” she says. “To have a voice about how this continues is an honor.”
While the Hermitage is not considered formally in the presidential library system, Jackson’s presidential period is a bonus to his personal endeavors catalogued on the non-profit site.
“The Andrew Jackson Center is a modern museum space on the Hermitage property that provides a place which share his professional positions in addition to his personal story,” she says. “The question of our role and charge in sharing his presidential story continues to be discussed.”
Such decisions about the future of this historical gem will have Pam Miner playing a prominent role, which is right where she wants to be. Historians, she says, provide a myriad of roles and these roles are going through a significant period of evolution, all of which coincides with her philosophy for a professional career.
“As you move through your career, consider also where you want to live, how you want to live, and what you want to do,” she advises. “These can, and should, change as you continue to learn and grow. I agree with the adage you should not work a day in your life. Enjoy who you are and what you do in all aspects of your life. Make choices accordingly, but always be ready to go with the flow.”