Even before she began matriculating at The Lawrenceville School, Hilary Cronheim ’03 knew she loved museums. As a Lawrenceville student she spent weekends wandering through the nearby Princeton Art Museum, and she wrote a student’s gallery guide to the museum as a Fourth Former.
Now Cronheim is at the helm of the oldest sports museum in the country, the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) Golf Museum. Home to golf’s most comprehensive library and collection of artifacts and historic materials, the museum was founded in 1936 in the USGA’s original New York City headquarters before relocating to its current location in Liberty Corner, N.J.
Although Cronheim is a relative newcomer to the sport of golf, she is an expert in museums and art history. Summer internships took her to the Terra Museum of American Art in her hometown of Chicago and she later pursued undergraduate and graduate studies in art history at Cornell and Duke universities.
“It was my love for museums that drove everything and ultimately how I ended up here,” she says of her new role.
After relocating to New Jersey with her husband David, a member of the New Jersey State Golf Association Board of Trustees and owner of Watchung Valley Golf Club, Cronheim learned about the USGA Museum and applied for a job as special collections librarian as she completed her dissertation.
“I started here in March 2015 in that role and I loved it,” she says. “It gave me the opportunity to pursue a new subject matter and apply the skills I had learned in my previous life towards golf.”
After a promotion to senior librarian overseeing the library and the museum’s photography archive, Cronheim was promoted to the role of museum director this spring.
“We went through a rigorous strategic planning process to figure out who we want to be, what we want to do and how we can elevate ourselves to that level,” she says.
Under her leadership, the museum’s staff will now work to achieve four key priorities: strengthen the collection and maintain it at the highest standards, expand public programming, enhance access to the museum’s research collections, and become the world’s leading center for golf scholarship.
“The museum is designed to tell the history of golf in the context of American history,” Cronheim says.
Open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, the museum collection comprises more than 70,000 artifacts from golf’s most iconic moments, in addition to more than one million photographs and 200,000 hours of video footage and is the “go-to place for anyone interested in writing anything about golf,” she says.
Additionally, the museum serves as the repository for institutional records for the USGA, housing documentation related to the organization’s 14 national championships and a real-time recordkeeping archive of championship play.
“I think, no question, the Harkness academic rigor and system of learning [at Lawrenceville] is unparalleled and has set me up for success in terms of teaching me how to be a critical thinker,” she says. “I think it’s the combination of everything Lawrenceville throws at you at one time – I played on the squash team, and trying to balance your academics and extracurricular and find some time to do your own thing was such an important thing for me.”
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