Elise Maragliano grew up with her parents visiting museums. Now she is the museum coordinator for the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Elise Maragliano
Elise Maragliano attributes her love of museums to her childhood in Germany.
“I think that definitely played a role. You can look for a medieval building; then go to a modern art museum and it’s about half a mile away,” says Elise, laughing. “When we had free time, my parents would drag me to another historical site, museum or church.”
The trips were worth it. Elise, who is now the museum coordinator for the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (The Kate) on Main Street in Old Saybrook, eventually majored in anthropology, earned her doctorate from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, and taught at Southern Connecticut State University. She has loved museums all her life.
She brings that love of museums to The Kate as Museum Coordinator for the newly opened museum dedicated to the actress of the same name. While The Kate has always had a small museum, it recently expanded after receiving a gift of Hepburn’s belongings from her grandniece. After a fundraiser, the space doubled its exhibit space to approximately 13,000 square feet. At the end of June, the new premises were opened to the public with a reopening ceremony.
“We had a lot of people on both the political side and the trustee and patron side,” says Elise. “Since we reopened, there’s definitely been a lot more people coming in, which has been nice,” says Elise.
With an expanded museum, one person was needed who could help manage all the pieces. Elise recently landed her role and says she “does a little bit of everything” to get the job done. Sometimes it’s to catalog new items, sometimes displays are relocated and redesigned, and often there’s a scout for new items to become available for display.
“We make sure that everything is conserved, stored and displayed,” she explains.
Beyond the display elements, Elise is also responsible for working with the programming. She is particularly excited about a talk by Kevin Conroy scheduled for Friday, August 7th. Conroy, a tennis coach who taught Hepburn the sport in the ’80s, will present The Car, The Court, and The Canoe program. He is expected to share items from his personal collection and reminisce about his time spent coaching Hepburn, as well as other stories from their time together. Tickets for the show are available on The Kate’s website.
“I also do an educational camp for children,” adds Elise. “I wear a lot of hats, so I’m definitely busy.”
Although she’s only been on the job for a few weeks, Elise says she’s already enjoying her role.
“I love how many people come in and either have personal stories about seeing her around town or people who have stories about how important she was in their lives,” she says. “You hear that a lot from some of the older folks who come in.”
But not only older people feel connected to Hepburn.
“It’s also amazing how many younger people are coming in saying they’re learning about her and being inspired by her today. It’s impressive to see the reach that she still has,” says Elise.
Before joining The Kate, Elise worked at various museums including the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
“I’ve worked in the education department and in the anthropology department,” says Elise, adding that there are many exciting aspects of working in a museum. “Part of it is that you work with the artifacts yourself, which is always exciting. The other great thing is you see people come in and have that moment of reflection.
Elise was born in Germany and moved around a lot as a child. “As a military brat, I’ve lived everywhere,” says Elise.
While working in New York, she met her husband, who was from Connecticut, and the couple eventually relocated and settled in Westbrook.
When not working at The Kate, Elise can be found jogging, yoga, skiing and snowboarding, taking piano lessons, and spending time with her family.
“I’ve been coming to The Kate for nine years so it’s one of my favorites and it’s how I felt before I worked here.”