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Museum educator Koch recognized with organization’s highest honor

Peter Koch, education associate at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center, was honored March 30 with the 2015 Professional Service Award from the North Carolina Museums Council.

A nonprofit organization that supports and connects museum professionals throughout North Carolina, NCMC sponsors the annual awards program to recognize, encourage and promote excellence in the state’s museum community and organizations in related fields of interest.

Peter Koch, education specialist at WCU's Mountain Heritage Center, demonstrates black powder shooting each year at Mountain Heritage Day.

Peter Koch, education specialist at WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center, demonstrates black powder shooting each year at Mountain Heritage Day.

The Professional Service Award has been given annually since 1971, and is the organization’s highest honor. It is presented to a North Carolina museum professional who represents the highest standards in the field and has advanced the role of museums throughout the state. Koch joins other winners such as Betsy Bennett, recently retired director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, and Steve Hill, longtime site manager for Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville.

Koch’s 25 years of museum work have made an immense impact at WCU and throughout the state and region, said Pam Meister, interim director and curator at the Mountain Heritage Center.

“Over the years, Peter has worked with dozens of community partners, hundreds of college students aspiring to careers in museums, and thousands of K-12 school groups who have benefited from his on-site and outreach programs throughout Western North Carolina,” Meister said.

She nominated Koch for the award based on the variety and length of his career and volunteer service.

“Through his work with the Mountain Heritage Day festival and the MHC’s traveling exhibit program, as well as his participation with the North State Rifles Living History Association, Peter has connected hundreds of thousands of people with the culture and history of the Southern Appalachian region,” Meister said.

Before joining the Mountain Heritage Center as education associate in 1998, Koch worked as a museum educator at the North Carolina Museum of History, Historic Oak View County Park, and the Raleigh City Museum, all in Raleigh. He also has served as a ranger interpreter at Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington, Pennsylvania and at Boston Harbor Islands State Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

Koch’s professional service includes many leadership roles in NCMC, for which he currently serves as vice president. He also has been a member of the North Carolina Connecting to Collections working group since 2009. He is a founding member of the Jackson County Junior Appalachian Musicians Advisory Council, and has been an active member of the North State Rifles Living History Association since 1998.

A native North Carolinian who grew up in Chapel Hill, Koch holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Guilford College and a master’s in public history from North Carolina State University.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive the Professional Service Award from the North Carolina Museums Council. It’s a reflection of the many great mentors and colleagues I’ve gotten to work with at the Mountain Heritage Center and at other sites including the North Carolina Museum of History and Fort Necessity National Battlefield,” said Koch.

“The award also likely has something to do with all the tremendous graduate and undergraduate students who have interned and volunteered at the MHC over the years. It’s been a joy to work with them and help them develop skills.”

For more information contact the Mountain Heritage Center at 828-227-7129 or visit http://mhc.wcu.edu.

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