By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
The Lost City Museum is happy to welcome a new museum director to the facility. Jenny Strayer was recently hired to fill the position vacated by former museum director Jerrie Clark who had served since July 2013.
Strayer currently resides in Las Vegas. She said that she saw the position advertised and was very excited to apply for the job. Strayer said that she was even more excited when she was chosen to fill the position. She looks forward to bringing new ideas to the historic Overton institution.
Strayer was raised in Monroe, MI.
“Monroe isn’t a huge place, but it is famous for two reasons,” Strayer said. “It is the home of La-Z-Boy recliners (so, of course, everyone has one); and it is the birthplace of General George Custer.”
As she grew up, Strayer developed a great interest in anthropology. She chose to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she graduated with a double major in anthropology and zoology.
After graduation and with a desire to see the world, Strayer accepted a fellowship to spend a year in London. There she enjoyed many hours touring museums.
“It was wonderful because I met people from every walk of life,” Strayer said of her London experience.
Upon her return to the United States, Strayer enrolled at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. There she got a masters degree in American Culture Studies, which looked at the physical traces of culture and studied artifacts and other things that fascinated Strayer.
She later furthered her studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago, studying the history of architecture and art, before receiving her PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa.
While working on her PhD, Strayer took her first museum job as the Executive Director of a historic house.
Upon graduation, she began work at SE Missouri State, where she split her time between being the university’s museum director and teaching art history. The long hard hours she spent trying to do both jobs forced Strayer to make a decision on which way she wanted to go with her career.
Strayer finally decided to pursue her love of ancient studies and stay with museums. She continued in the museum at SE Missouri State, working with their collection that focused on the ancient Mississippians from around 600-1400 AD.
“This was a significant archeological collection so it was very exciting to work with,” Strayer said. “You learn specific things about the articles under your care, which is a very rewarding part of the job.”
Strayer continued working around the country at different museums, learning different things and picking up new skills.
“The advantage of working with different eclectic collections is that it helps you learn the different needs artifacts have for storage, conservation, and interpretation,” she said.
This depth and breadth of knowledge and skill is one thing Strayer feels will help her at Lost City Museum.
Strayer is excited to be part of the museum. Although she is planning no enormous changes for the immediate future, she does have long range goals regarding the growth of the museum. Strayer recognizes that the museum is beloved by locals.
“From the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen that many people have strong feelings of nostalgia when attending the museum,” she said. “We respect that. I’ve been very impressed with the community connection to Lost City.”
Strayer went on to say that she genuinely appreciates the time and effort the museum volunteers put in. But she notes that the facility can always use more volunteers. She welcomes the community to come, help out, and share this fantastic local treasure.
At the same time, however, Strayer doesn’t want people to have a “been there; done that” kind of feeling towards the museum. She wants to make it a new experience for people to view with new eyes every time they come. To this end, she sees a lot of potential for growth in outreach programs and so forth.
“We want to start bringing more and more festivals, workshops, lectures, and other programs, so that people can always have new opportunities when they come,” Strayer said. “We want these to be fairly short engagements so people can come for an afternoon and enjoy them and still want to come back soon for something else.”
Strayer would like to invite local residents to come to one such activity that will be happening in September, although she notes that the event was planned before she came to the museum.
Artist Denise Sins will be teaching an outside “Painting on the Patio” workshop at the museum on September 22 from 5-7pm. Artists of all skill levels will be able to complete a painting of the historic buildings that evening. A $30 registration fee ($25 for members) covers all fees, supplies, instruction, and snacks for the evening. More information on the event can be found on the museum’s Facebook page, or by calling 702-397-2193.
“This museum is a treasure,” Strayer said. “I love the moment that’s captured in the old part of the building in the space built by the CCC.”
She encourages the public to come and reacquaint themselves with the artifacts there. “When you see the artifacts, you can feel a tangible sense of being transported to another time,” she said. “That’s a special part of museums: they transport you out of yourself to connect you with a people long gone.”