A fan of history has found the job she loves

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published September 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 6, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Lindsey Stanton has been director of the Grant County Museum in Sheridan since the first of the year. As one of only three employees, she takes on many jobs, from designing new displays to planning the future of the community’s museum.

As a student at Sheridan High School, Lindsey Stanton acquired a passion for history, but like many people, she took a different route for a career and worked in the mortgage industry for years. Then in 2012, she was offered a job that brought her back to history, and she is living her dream.

“The job spoke to me,” she said. “I was where I wanted to be. To get to do what you love is life changing.”

She had taken a job as office manager of the Grant County Museum, but a few months later, museum director D.J. Wallace announced his retirement, and Stanton became the new director on the first day of 2013.

“It was an opportunity to bring my interest and career together, and that’s really great,” she said. “I have loved it since the first day and took it all in. I still find something every day that I have not noticed before.”

As the leader of the museum that has only three employees, Stanton said she does lots of different things, and they are all fun, but there is a downside.

“The biggest thing is trying to get everything done by the end of the day,” she said. “You can be working on a project and people will come in, and you have to stop and help or show them around. That’s great. We want everyone to come see what we have here, but it can be stressful sometimes. There is so much to keep up.”

Stanton said her goal for the museum is to let the community know what kind of an asset the museum is for the people. Most important of all are the educational opportunities the museum offers for all ages.

“We have the school visits and group tours and our genealogy program,” she said. “We know we have been here for 40 years, but I still see Grant County residents who come in and say they’ve never been here.”

Stanton’s love of the museum goes back to her fascination with history that she gained in high school.

“Bill Remo was my teacher, and he actually caught my attention and started my interest in history,” she said. “When I was in the mortgage business, history was my hobby. I was always reading and doing something with it. I’m obsessed with the English monarchy.”

Out of school, she started as a teller at the Mercantile Bank in Sheridan and worked her way up. Later she joined First Arkansas Financial, where she became a loan officer. She even began training to be a dental assistant, she said, when several of her friends were in the classes.

But working at the museum, first as the office manager, turned into a job she loved.

“It felt like home when I got here,” Stanton said. “Now the mission of the museum is not only my goal, but it’s fun.”

While the museum, packed with thousands of artifacts, is always interesting to her, she said there is one item that is her favorite. It is the blue 1971 Chevy Malibu that shares a room with Sheridan’s first firetruck, and with an automobile that was made by an aircraft manufacturer and looks more like a wingless plane than a car.

“The Malibu is closer to what I would have seen people driving in high school,” Stanton said, “also because it is pretty and could go fast.”

There is another perk for a history buff like Stanton. She has access to everything.

“In the job, you get to touch stuff as you set up displays or rearrange them, and even cleaning them can be fun because you get to mess with some of the artifacts,” she said. “Plus, we are getting new things in all the time.”

Two new items joined the museum’s collection on Thursday.

“One was a 100-year-old quilt, and the other was a jacket someone wore in World War II,” Stanton said. “They will be added to the collection. We need to make another quilt frame, and the quilt will be on display next week.”

In addition, displays are always changing within the exhibits.

“We have added three new displays in the last six to nine months,” Stanton said. “With the latest, we set up an exhibition of a portrait studio from the early 1900s. We rebuilt one old camera and set it up like it was ready to take a picture, and there are other cameras also on display.”

Other new exhibits include a washroom, showing youngsters how laundry was done with antiquated machines or a lot of elbow grease. Another display depicts a toy store from a bygone era, with old toys collected from over the years.

Stanton said it is very satisfying when someone discovers the exhibitions for the first time.

“When most of the kids come in, their faces light up,” she said. “And you hear them show surprise or say, ‘Oh man,’ and that feels neat to know you have had a part in that.”

She said that recently she was showing a group of young people a typewriter, and the children didn’t know what it was.

“One said it was a hand key; he really had no idea,” Stanton said. “Kids have never seen a typewriter.”

Having items on display that attract young people is part of an important long-range goal for the museum director.

“We need more people from my generation and younger involved in the museum and for them to become members of the museum guild.”

Work goes on at the museum, Stanton said. “Soon the old museum building set in Heritage Square will reopen as a general store from the past. Work is also going on in the railroad building. Stanton said she hopes it will be open by Christmas, presenting a huge display of model trains.”

She is looking at the future of the museum.

“This will be my last job, and it is a joy, honestly,” she said. “It is gratifying to reach out to the kids and see them get it. Being a teacher is what I first wanted to be.”

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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