In the 1960s, Dr. Louis C. Jones, then Director of NYSHA, lamented the lack of training for museum professionals. He wondered who would staff the growing number of museums, and preserve the objects of our nation's heritage. Encouraged by Stephen C. Clark, Sr., benefactor of the Association, Jones approached the nearby State University of New York at Oneonta with the idea of creating a museum studies program on NYSHA's campus.
Henry Allen Moe, President of the Historical Association board and his friends Nelson and David Rockefeller helped to provide the financial support to launch the experiment. Jones hired talented folklorist Bruce Buckley as the first Director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and the two men set about the task of creating museum and folk culture programs that focused on community study, documentation, and cultural preservation. The first students, a group of 28 representing 13 states and one foreign country, arrived in 1964.
Students did more than study museum practices and American art and history. Fanning out across the countryside, they documented traditional music and vanishing rural crafts through the folklore program and intergrated themselves into the community. Graduates quickly entered the growing New York State historic sites system, placing museum professionals from New York City to Buffalo.
As the alumni base grew, students assumed positions in museums, historical sites, and cultural organizations throughout the United States. After 40 successful years, the Cooperstown Graduate Program has had a national impact on the arts, historical preservation, cultural programming, and economic development.