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Museums a part of life for new Lost City Museum director
Jenny Strayer might be one of the few who can say she had Henry Ford as her babysitter. Well, technically, it was the Henry Ford Museum, where Strayer spent much of her childhood in Dearborn, Mich. “My father was an engineer at Ford and worked right across the street from the Henry Ford Museum,” Strayer said. “My mother worked in Toledo, right across from the Toledo Museum of Art. They would drop me off and the museums were essentially my babysitter. Literally, museums have always been a part of my life.” And they will continue to do so as Strayer was recently hired as the director of the Lost City Museum in Overton, one Nevada’s seven state museums. “Dr. Strayer brings a wealth of academic training and experience in managing museum and cultural collections of great significance,” Peter Barton, administrator of the Nevada Division of Museums & History, said. “She is well-suited to lead the Lost City Museum as we continue to expand our public programming and access to our collections.” Strayer has a Ph.D in American Studies from the University of Iowa, a Masters in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green University and a Bachelor’s in Anthropology-Zoology from the University of Michigan and brings more than 20 years’ experience in museums to her new position. After moving to Las Vegas in 2015 to serve as a visual arts specialist for the City of Las Vegas, Strayer was working as an independent arts and culture consultant when she saw the job opening for the Lost City Museum. Soon after applying for the job, she made the 70-mile drive to Overton to visit the museum. “I was so intrigued by the convergence of events that resulted in the creating of Lost City Museum,” she said. The museum sits on a prehistoric site that was once home to ancestral Puebloans, often called the Anasazi, dating back to 200 AD. In 1924, the ruins were brought to the attention of Nevada Gov. James Scrugham. He enlisted the help of archaeologist M.R. Harrington of the Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Excavations of the site and similar ruins in the area began in 1924 and accelerated in the 1930s with the construction of Hoover Dam. Under Harrington’s direction, crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps excavated sites before they were covered by Lake Mead. In 1935, the National Park Service built the Boulder Dam Park Museum, now Lost City Museum, to house artifacts. “The connection that it’s made in the lives of people in Clark County, all of those things were particularly intriguing to me,” Stayer said. Her past museum experience includes serving as the executive director and curator at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Chicago; university curator at Rice University in Houston; and director and curator at SE Missouri State University Museum and Gallery in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She said her goals at Lost City are to add more programming and events that will help broaden the exposure of the museum beyond the Moapa Valley, while also serving the local community as a gathering place and cultural center. “It’s a wonderful museum,” Strayer said.