Cozens Ranch Museum welcomes new manager |

Cozens Ranch Museum welcomes new manager

The new Cozens Ranch Museum Director Erica Rodenbeck poses inside of the museum in Fraser.
Sawyer D’Argonne /

The Grand County Historical Association welcomed a new member to their ranks last week, Erica Rodenbeck, who will serve as the new Cozens Ranch Museum Manager.

“I’m really excited to bring Erica to Grand County with her knowledge, experience with museums and passion for history,” said Shanna Ganne, executive director of the GCHA. “She also brings a strong programming background, and will be a great addition to the GCHA.”

Rodenbeck, a Wisconsin native, will look to utilize her years of museum experience to create new and attractive educational programs, improve accessibility and turn the museum into a cornerstone of the Fraser Valley community.

“My number one focus is making sure the community really feels like this is their space,” said Rodenbeck. “I want this museum to be something that represents the members of this community, something they can take pride in. I think that’s going to be through a combination of making sure exhibits are as good as they can possibly be, and making sure that the programming we do is the same: relevant, significant and cost effective.”

Rodenbeck grew up outside of Milwaukee where she was often dragged to museums with her parents, and even took part in civil war era historical reenactments with her father, Greg.

She attended Beloit College where she studied anthropology and Elizabethan era literature. But it wasn’t until her first day actually working in a museum that she knew it’s what she wanted to do.

“I ended up doing an internship at the Kenosha Public Museum, just something to do during the summer,” recalls Rodenbeck. “It was the first day of the job, just a couple hours in, and I was like, ‘yup, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’

“I was able to directly interact with the objects and the history that was really interesting to me. I think when I was a kid I started losing interest in museums because I wasn’t engaging. History didn’t feel immediate. There wasn’t a sense of how immediately connected we really are, and that’s something I’d really love to be able to bring.”

Rodenbeck took another job at the Lincoln Museum of Anthropology, and enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She graduated in December with a master’s in anthropology and a certificate in museum studies. She began her work at the Cozens Ranch Museum on April 18.

While she’s still learning the ropes, and absorbing a new state and local history, Rodenbeck has begun to lie out her goals for the museum. She expressed an interest in reaching out to teenagers, a historically underserved museum population, with summer camps and internships.

Rodenback also voiced a desire to engage with people with different learning styles by optimizing the flow of information in exhibits, taking interdisciplinary approaches and finding ways to connect the past to the present.

“The idea of how you plan an exhibit is going to be different than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” said Rodenceck. “We used to focus specifically on one type of audience. Now we’re realizing that we need to focus on being inclusive, and engaging with people with different learning styles…in the past museums had been much more about learning tidbits of information. But now we’re trying to bring history into the present, and show how it impacts our current events.”

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