Museum’s education director acclimating to her new surroundings
Diane Knispel is new to Park City.
Last November, the New Jersey native accepted the position as education director for the Park City Museum and she has the ideal background for the job.
She’s a former schoolteacher and has a degree in historic preservation from Drew University.
"I taught elementary students for 10 years and then I decided I needed a change, so I went back to school and got a historic preservation degree to add to my masters and bachelors in elementary education and started to work at the Hermitage National Landmark museum in New Jersey," Knispel said during an interview with The Park Record. "I was there for six years, but knew I needed a stable job and began looking around."
Knispel saw the opening at the Park City Museum that was made available after longtime education director Jenette Purdy left in the fall.
"I applied and I’m very happy to be here," Knispel said. "This way I get to work with kids and history."
Knispel was always drawn to education.
"First off, I love children and I love school, and I always wanted to be a teacher," she said. "But after 10 years, I got burned out and decided to do something different."
Knispel’s foray into history can be traced back to the historic Fell House in her hometown of Allendale, New Jersey.
"The core portion of this house dates back to the Revolutionary War," she said. "Over the years, the owners had built and added onto it."
The structure sits on property that includes a barn, wetlands and old-growth trees, according to Knispel.
"In 2008, a developer came in and wanted to knock it down," she said. "So, a group of us got together and approached the planning board, the zoning board and the town council."
The group, known as the Concerned Citizens of Allendale, also talked with the developer and the owner and eventually saved the house by purchasing it in 2010 and turning it into a Historic National Treasure.
"That’s when I got interested in historic preservation," Knispel said. " I wanted to help save this house and I enjoyed that so much that I decided to stay in the field and started working at museums."
Before she moved to Park City, Knispel didn’t know much about the area, but had the opportunity to explore before she accepted the job.
"[Park City Museum Executive Director] Sandra Morrison was great and she brought me in to meet the staff," Knispel said. "She also took me around town and showed me what was here. And that’s when I learned that Park City really isn’t out in the boondocks and is an incredible tourist destination."
Knispel moved to Park City at the start of ski season and enjoyed the the Sundance Film Festival.
"I really love it here because there is always something to do, which is exciting to me," she said. "I loved Sundance. I was able to attend four films and it was so exciting to do so."
In addition, Knispel has participated in some of the local tourist-oriented offerings, including the Park City Ghost Tours.
"I want to know what’s out there so I can answer questions that people have," she said. "It’s also good for me because I learn more about the area for my own benefit."
After four months, Knispel can truthfully say she loves working at the Park City Museum.
"I like that there is something for everyone," she said about the displays. "I have noticed that because the museum is very interactive, visitors come in and spend more time than they initially expected to.
"They learn a lot about Park City history, which I think is important because I believe if you’re going to be staying in a town either for skiing or other things that you should learn about the history," Knispel said. "I think the museum is great for tourists and I think it’s great for the local people and the kids."
The only thing she is having a hard time with is the altitude.
"It was very difficult at first and I’m still working on it but getting better," she said with a laugh. "It’s still hard hiking up the hills, but I’m hoping I’ll acclimate soon."
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Park City Library director Adriane Herrick Juarez hosts the Library Leadership Podcast that helps and inspires librarians across the country to strengthen their libraries.