150th Staff Spotlights: Part 1
Over the past 150 years, the Missouri Historical Society (which operates the Missouri History Museum and the Museum's Library and Research Center) has been fortunate to count numerous passionate and dedicated people in its ranks. Here's your chance to meet a few of the folks who keep the Museum and the LRC up and running.
I started working for the Missouri Historical Society on October 5, 1966. They were looking for someone older whom they could trust to stay around a while, and I was just 24 years old. The MHS president at that time, George Brooks, and two sisters interviewed me anyway and were impressed with my work ethic (I showed up 90 minutes early for my interview), but they still wanted someone older. They decided to go ahead and give me a three-month trial—that turned into 50 years!
I’ve had the opportunity to work under six different MHS presidents, and I’ve learned how to work with many different people and personalities. I’ll always be grateful for the great people I’ve met, like Mrs. Obeheid. She became a strong supporter of MHS later on in life, but I first met her when she volunteered in the Museum Shop. She was a great friend.
I have enjoyed working on numerous projects over the years, but one of my favorite assignments was working on the graphic identity for the History Clubhouse. Working in collaboration with others and creating the logo was a lot of fun. Plus, using the bright colors associated with the logo and incorporating images of our smiling young visitors on rack cards, posters, flyers, calendars, and print ads is such a bonus!
My position here involves many things, such as checking and monitoring the galleries as well as the Museum's artifacts, safety monitoring of all visitors, and performing regular external security checks of the building and parking areas. People are usually surprised at this because when they hear you do security, they seldom know or understand that there's so much involved, especially in an environment such as this where timeless, historical artifacts must be protected at all times.
My favorite memory of the past 25 years was watching the Emerson Center being built. Having a chance to witness firsthand the progress of the expansion was an amazing experience. From start to finish, the process was wonderful to witness.
I have always loved history, so I was thrilled when I started as an intern in the Archives department in 1997, and I’ve never left. Now, as head archivist, I’m proud to be the custodian of the Missouri Historical Society’s manuscript collections. The greatest thrill is helping researchers and providing access to the many treasures in our archives, like showing a Lewis and Clark journal to a class of 4th graders; letting someone hold a letter written by Abraham Lincoln; or watching as a researcher finds one of his ancestors, a slave, mentioned by name in a letter in our Kennett Family Papers.
I started working at the Missouri History Museum on October 1, 1999, as the Gallery Program Coordinator. My main duties were to bring what was on the walls of the new Currents and Reflections galleries to life—to give them a face and a voice so that they could “communicate” with visitors. I did this by hiring and training actors and storytellers who would portray certain characters and present 15- to 20-minute costumed programs (which I’d researched and written) within the galleries. I continue to work in the Museum’s Education department, producing about 120 programs a year that focus on bringing to life the history of the great state of Missouri and other exhibit-related or seasonally related topics.
The most rewarding part of my job is when I see that someone has “finally” connected the dots in their head about a certain topic or incident. You can see it, when you know what to look for, when someone has knowledge “A,” let’s say, and then during the program they’re attending you see that they’re given knowledge “B.” Then it culminates in the Look—that look they get when they now understand how what they already know relates to what the speaker is telling them. They’ve made the connection between one bit of knowledge and another and now understand more fully that which they thought they’d known before. The Look—I live for it.