Meet the Board: Christie Weininger
Christie Weininger, Executive Director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Tell us a little bit about where you work and what you do there?
I work at the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, which is the 25-acre estate of 19th president and first lady of the United States, Rutherford and Lucy Hayes. Spiegel Grove is comprised of the museum, research library, Hayes home, and the president and first lady’s tomb. I am the executive director.
What is your earliest museum memory?
Visiting Ohio Village at the Ohio History Center in Columbus with my family and eating stick candy from the general store. Probably about the same age I also visited COSI in Columbus with my girl scout troop and was fascinated with this “tunnel through time” exhibit; it started out with people living in caves and there were strobe lights in the ceiling that, I guessed at the time, were what you would see if you rode in a time machine. They played the most amazing song I had ever heard that I later learned from a grown-up was called “Fanfare for the Common Man.” I still enjoy that piece of music. I also like the musical composition “Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman,” but for different reasons.
What led you to go into the museum field?
When I was a freshman at Otterbein University, I volunteered, by total chance, in the archives there and was given a collection to catalog that included several pages of illuminated manuscripts from a Bible. I got to hold these 500+ year old works of art in my (gloved) hands and felt this powerful connection to some monk-artist I would never know. The archivist took me under her wing and I changed my major to history because I wanted to work every day with artifacts like those amazing manuscripts.
What is your workspace like?
Somewhat tidy paper piles everywhere. I’m a geological stacker – the stuff at the bottom of my piles is older than the stuff on top.
What item in your office can you not live without?
I love the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In a casual conversation with my assistant, I happened to remark that the song reminded me to concentrate on the joyful moments of each day, including my work day. Later, when I was going through a stressful time on the job, she bought me a music box with an angel on top with triumphant, defiant outstretched arms (my interpretation of her arm placement. Can angels be defiant? She looks defiant to me!). The music box plays “Ode to Joy.” It sits on a stand near my desk as a daily cue to focus on the best parts of my job and not cave in to the stress.
Describe your favorite work memory. What was your best day like?
For our centennial anniversary in 2016, Cokie Roberts was supposed to be our keynote speaker. The day she was supposed to speak, there was a tropical storm hitting the state where she lived and she called me at 11:00 the night before the ceremony to say she was unable to attend. We did not have much time to come up with an alternative plan. My staff and I scrambled through the night and we came up with a way for her to deliver her remarks virtually by figuring out how to get wireless internet and a large screen to the middle of our property where the ceremony was to be held. However, due to the poor reception on her end (that dang tropical storm) we weren’t getting a strong enough signal for the live broadcast to work. However, minutes before the ceremony started, there was some sort of break in the weather, or power surge, or act of God, and we were able to proceed. Cokie was broadcasting from her closet and when we mentioned we could see all the clothes hanging in the background, she ran off and came back a minute later with a giant American flag that she flung over the clothes rack. Seconds later the ceremony started and while we weren’t broadcasting her on the big screen yet, I could see her on a small tablet we were using to connect with her. When the National Anthem started, everyone in attendance stood and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Cokie stand too, with her hand over her heart, singing along. In her closet! When it came time for her to talk, it was a bit glitchy in places, but we pulled it off. I was so proud of our staff for working late into the night to make this happen. And I was so impressed with Cokie’s professionalism and ability to adapt to plan a, b and c, all of which were in play until moments before the ceremony. It was obvious she was a true veteran journalist.
What does your dream museum look like?
Nothing breaks, leaks, or deteriorates and there are no admission fees.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Everything seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela. I have this posted on my office door.
What are you currently reading?
“The Body in the Library,” by Agatha Christie and “The Witches,” by Stacy Schiff.