August 12, 2020

Jarod Kearney: Monroe Man

Jarod Kearney, assistant director and curator of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. Photo by Jarod Kearney,.

Jarod Kearney, assistant director and curator of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. Photo by Jarod Kearney,.

Presidential resumes are usually impressive, but James Monroe’s takes the cake. The last president of the Virginia dynasty, the Founding Father was also the state’s governor, U.S. senator, ambassador to France and Britain, Secretary of State and Secretary of War, and moved up through the ranks of the Continental Army. Oh yeah, and he practiced law in Fredericksburg, home to the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library (JMM).

“People would be amazed to learn the sheer amount of public service positions Monroe held during his lifetime,” said Jarod Kearney, JMM’s assistant director and curator, who manages the museum’s collections and exhibitions, as well as day-to-day operations. It’s Kearney’s job to educate the public on the fifth president’s legacy and life, which drew to a close on Independence Day in 1831.

His multiple responsibilities include caring for artifacts; answering visitor questions; supervising staff, guides and interns; scheduling and other administrative tasks – the list goes on. No presidential novice, he previously curated the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, and he has a bachelor’s degree in history and master’s degree in museum studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

But what Kearney loves the most about his job is sharing his passion for history with others, especially Mary Washington students. And he’s proud of the frequent collaborations JMM has with the History and American Studies and Historic Preservation departments.

“It’s rewarding to be able to give them hands-on experience in the field.”

 

Q: What first sparked your interest in history?
A: I’ve been fascinated by history since I was little, reading Greek mythology, making wood swords and looking for “artifacts” – bottle caps and old toys – in my yard.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Educating students and visitors.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Being in an old building that needs lots of care.

Q: Most people know of the Monroe Doctrine and Louisiana Purchase. What about the “Era of Good Feelings”?
A: After his first inauguration in 1817, Monroe embarked on an unprecedented tour of the northern states. A Boston newspaper coined the term “Era of Good Feelings” to describe this time of national pride, growth and political unity. JMM collaborated with Associate Professor Cristina Turdean and Historic Preservation students and the Papers of James Monroe to create a dynamic and well-received traveling exhibition on that very tour, titled “In the Spirit of the People,” and a second exhibit on Monroe’s 1819 southern tour.

Q: What’s a JMM must-see for presidential history buffs?
A: The desk where Monroe likely wrote what would become the Monroe Doctrine. It’s pretty cool!

Q: Are there any new exhibitions coming to JMM this year?
A: We have an astounding lineup of events for 2019-20. Please visit https://jamesmonroemuseum.umw.edu/ to learn more!

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I act in films as a hobby.

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I have hundreds of Bonsai trees, and in addition to acting, I enjoy photography, pottery and blacksmithing. I won a scholarship through the American Bladesmith Society a couple decades ago, and I’ve been making custom knives and swords ever since.