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ConnectVA Spotlight: Charles Swinford, Pamplin Historical Park

Charles Swinford

Tell us about you. 
I am Charles Swinford, Senior Marketing Specialist & Graphic Designer at Pamplin Historical Park. I joined the organization about a year ago, and before that I worked in marketing, graphic design, and fine arts. I’ve been involved with nonprofits since I started  volunteering in high school.

What is the focus of your work?
We preserve and teach the history of the American Civil War, focusing on the story of the common people (soldiers, civilians, and enslaved peoples) in and around Petersburg and Richmond during wartime. We do this with four museums, four antebellum homes, living history, original earthworks, and walking trails all situated on 424 acres of historic battlefields.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The reaction of the public after they’ve been through our facilities is always special. It’s really gratifying to know that what we do here really connects with our visitors, no matter their age or background.

What are some major challenges you have faced?
I was hired just two months before the 150th anniversary of “The Breakthrough,” the decisive battle that ended the siege of Richmond and Petersburg, forcing Lee’s retreat and ultimate surrender. That battle occurred on our property, so you can imagine what  a big deal the anniversary was for us. By the time I joined up the team here was neck-deep in planning and production for our Spring tour, special anniversary symposium, and all our sesquicentennial events. I really had to hit the ground running!

Like many nonprofits, public awareness is our biggest challenge. Our museum is not very old old, which makes a difference when your mission is protecting, preserving, and teaching about history. Combine our relative youth with our location (just 30 minutes from metro Richmond), and the big challenge is standing out in a this history-rich area. As a marketing professional, this is exactly the kind of challenge I’m looking for.

What’s coming next for you and/or for your organization that really excites you?
We recently acquired three impressive collections of Civil War photographs and documents. We are in the process of preparing all  of them for their first ever public display, which is very exciting. We’re also in the planning stages for quite a few special events for next year. I can’t say too much about what we have in store yet, but it will be a fun season.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
ConnectVA has been a great resource for finding volunteers and talented staff whenever we have need. It’s an effective way to connect with other nonprofit professionals, too.

Anything else you would like to share?
We are always looking for volunteers, especially during our field trip season. There are days in the Spring when we will need more than 600 students, teachers, & chaperones in our park and museums. If you love history or education we have multiple roles available. Our volunteers help out with exhibits, tour groups, reception, administration, and there’s even some outdoor work available. For more details, visit www.pamplinpark.org/volunteer.html

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