Raynham Hall Museum has hired a new director of education and public programs. Justinne Lake-Jedzinak, formerly of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, took up her role on March 21, and is already making a splash.
“We’re so excited to have her here,” Theresa Skvarla, assistant director of the museum, said. “She’s just been so wonderful, very friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to learn anything and everything.”
The museum has been looking for an education director for over three months, after their previous director, Claire Bellerjeau, parted ways with Raynham Hall to focus her time and efforts on her historical research. In that time, Raynham Hall interviewed nearly a dozen potential candidates, and found their ideal one in Lake-Jedzinak.
Lake-Jedzinak, who is 41, has a history with history, studying it at James Madison University. She later got her master’s degree in education from Hofstra University and believed for several years, she said, that her career would be in teaching. Lake-Jedzinak subsequently got her PhD in art history from Bryn Mawr College, writing her dissertation on 17th century Neapolitan art. She focused specifically on religious paintings featuring female saints owned by nuns and other wealthy women of the time.
Lake-Jedzinak comes to Raynham Hall from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she was a guide coordinator for the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship and Guide Training Program for the last two years. She created and led a program for guides at the newly installed Early American Galleries and supervised and trained 180 volunteers on the permanent collection, special exhibitions, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Initiatives.
Prior to her work in Philadelphia, she was a senior museum educator at the New York Historical Society. She also worked as a social studies teacher at the Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School in Maspeth, NY.
Harriet Clark, executive director of Raynham Hall, said the board had interviewed several other well-qualified candidates. But during their extensive search for the right candidate, Lake-Jedzinak had everything that Raynham Hall was looking for.
“She has a background in all of the areas we are interested in,” Clark elaborated. “History, education, and also art. She seems like she’s eager to work with local people and deal with local problems, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
It makes sense that Lake-Jedzinak would be eager to participate in the community; after all, she’s been a resident of Oyster Bay since 2016, having previously lived in Huntington Station, and before that Floral Park.
Her husband Andrew, a 11th and 12th grade history teacher in Manhattan, once attended Oyster Bay High School. The two decided to move back both as a way for Andrew to return to his roots, but also because Lake-Jedzinak said she had fallen in love with the community.
“It was partly a way to get back to his hometown,” Lake-Jedzinak explained. “But also, we just loved the Oyster Bay community. It’s really a unique little hamlet, and I’m just so happy to get to be a part of it.”
At Raynham Hall, Lake-Jedzinak will be responsible for Education Programming, including all aspects of the visitor experience, general visitation, group, school and private tour logistics, and educator scheduling. She will also be charged with evaluating tour materials to ensure their alignment with school curriculums. She will work collaboratively with museum staff on events and community engagement.
According to Lake-Jedzinak, the aspect that she’s most looking forward to is working with the public. She also expressed an interest in how to make use of the museum’s new Education Center, which was just finished last summer, to give the best experience for students coming to visit.
“I really love public programs, especially virtual ones, since you can really reach audiences from all over,” Lake-Jedzinak said. “The fact that we teach kids from as far as Kansas and Australia is just so amazing ... the public programs and the fact that I’ll get to work with both educators and students is really exciting to me.”
She said she understands the job has some challenges, particularly figuring out what role the museum can serve in the community and the wider world, especially coming out of the two-year Covid pandemic. Another is coming up with new programming to offer the many schools in the community. According to Lake-Jedzinak though, she isn’t too worried.
“I don’t really see these as problems, more like opportunities disguised as challenges,” Lake-Jedzinak said. “It is a little bit scary, but also it’s so exciting.”