Career at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Stephanie Schmeling ’09 was a ninth grader in Colorado being driven to school when news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks flashed on the radio. She had never been to New York City, did not know of the World Trade Center, and, like many her age, didn’t understand the impact. “My older sister said something like, ‘This changes everything,’ and I remember thinking: What’s the big deal?”
Lives were changed forever that day, including Schmeling’s. She works as collections cataloguer for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, an important role to help the institution collect, preserve, document, exhibit, and interpret materials related to 9/11 as a public learning resource.
“It is sometimes strange to think that if 9/11 did not happen, I wouldn’t have this job,” said Schmeling. “But in the same sense it gives my job and my colleagues’ work more meaning. It isn’t just about the paycheck, it’s about something much larger and lasting.”
A history major on the Hilltop, Schmeling left Mount Vernon to attend New York University’s graduate program in Archives and Public History. This choice came after working with Jen Rouse and then Mary Iber for three years in the Cornell archives, where she discovered that a love of history with talent for organizing could become a career.
Also on her path to the 9/11 Museum were important fellowships and internships, plus encouragement and challenges from Cornell history Professors Phil Lucas and Katy Stewart. She was hired as an assistant cataloguer a month before earning her master’s degree from NYU in spring 2011. A year later she was promoted to her current position.