Sarah Sutton’s motto has followed her from the halls of her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon: “Esse quam videri” — “To be rather than to seem to be.”
This quote from Cicero’s essay on friendship has kept the Dalton resident on guard against false pretenses.
“I try very hard to be authentically myself, even if it is embarrassing and dorky,” Sutton said. “I’m just very open about who I am and what I stand for. If you could go to bed and be comfortable with your decisions and who you are and what you stand for, that’s all that matters, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.”
Sutton earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from West Chester University in 2015 and went on to receive a master’s degree in public history from Temple University. Sutton found her first opportunity to work in her chosen field when a position opened at the Everhart Museum in Scranton.
“I just always wanted to work in this field,” Sutton said. “I was just so happy once I saw an opening at the Everhart once I graduated school.”
Today, Sutton designs educational programs and writes
curriculum for the museum as its manager of educational programs. While her job requires her to work with visitors and learners of all ages, Sutton primarily works with children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Along with running and managing classes, Sutton hosts a four-week summer camp. And she’s kept teaching even this year as COVID-19 left matters in flux, offering online and hybrid programs.
For Sutton, the past three years at the Everhart have been the culmination of a lifelong interest in museums.
“I have wanted to work in a museum since I was a little girl,” Sutton said. “I was just on this path the entire time.”
Sutton’s earliest museum experience came as a fourth-grader at Elk Lake School District, when she and her classmates went to the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton and went on the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour. It might be “creepy” down underground, she said, “but I love it.”
“I always tell my friends when they come up to see me that they have to go to see it,” Sutton said.
Her interest in museums and anthropology also stems from her interest in people.
“I love telling people’s stories, and I just feel like in a museum that’s what people do,” she said. “They tell people’s stories, and that’s why I’ve always been drawn to it. … I remember going to all of these different historical sites, and I would watch the Travel Channel all the time and see these wonderful places that I wanted to visit.
“I just really love learning about cultures I had never even heard of before,” she added. “Growing up in such a small area, there’s so much of the world that you don’t know about or hear about, so going to college and studying anthropology was just such a huge, eye-opening experience of the different groups of people in the world and their different cultures and how different people live. And I love learning about that.”
That has fueled Sutton’s view of museums as places where the community can gather. She called them “a place for everyone.”
“Everyone on the planet has a place in the museum, but I feel like sometimes people are a little intimidated by it because it is this big institution and there are a lot of roles. … (But) really there is space for all sorts of people, and everyone has authority in museums,” she said.
Sutton loves the Everhart’s community outreach, which includes not only hosting community events but even serving as a polling place on Election Day.
“We are a community meeting (place),” Sutton said, noting that the museum also hosts weddings. “It is just a place where everyone in the community can go and feel a sense of ownership.”
The strength of members in her community, particularly strong women, has long inspired her.
“I love being surrounded by strong women,” Sutton said. “My family is filled with strong women. My mother has always been a very strong woman, so that’s really been an inspiration to me, that’s what I always wanted to be, and when I have kids, I want to be that for them.”
Sutton’s work at the Everhart also put her in contact with many other nonprofits and community groups in the region, opportunities that introduced her to people across the social and political spectrum who also continue to inspire her.
“I have been able to meet people who spend so much of their own time giving back, donating, volunteering and working for the community, and it’s just really awesome,” Sutton said. “I made friends at Lackawanna Heritage Valley, (people) who work at soup kitchens, Black Scranton (Project), and different heritage sites and nonprofits in the area … Growing up, I had no idea that (these) organizations existed here. So, it is just really nice to see that come together here.”
Along with her museum work, Sutton is a coffee enthusiast who loves baking, experimenting with and trying new foods from around the world, and working with her hands. She made a birthday trip to Seattle a few years back where she took tours that taught her about coffee and the science behind it.
Sutton dreams of exploring the world to meet new people and try new things — with the help of museums, of course.
“I love to travel and visit other museums. It really is my passion,” she said. “So any time I am in a city, I am spending time in museums.”
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Meet Sarah Sutton
- At home: A Dalton resident, she is the daughter of Janice and Kevin Sutton of Meshoppen.
- At work: Manager of educational programs at the Everhart Museum, Scranton
- Inspirations: Strong women and the people she met through Lackawanna Heritage Valley
- Aspirations: To travel the world, work in a large art institute and live in a van so she can keep traveling
- Diversions: Skiing, baking, traveling and visiting other museums
- Aversions: Rude people, banana-flavored candy, pecan pie