This week, we’re sitting down with the director of our local museum, Lauren Roovaart. Now, in the past, when I (Anthony Crosby) would mentally picture someone with that title, I would imagine some old guy with a gray beard sitting in his office, reading a bunch of books. However, if you know Lauren at all, she is the opposite of that description. She is an active, excited, passionate person with many productive years ahead of her. At the end of our interview, I asked Lauren if anyone else had walked in with assumptions like mine, before. Here’s what she had to say.
“People will occasionally mention something about that, but people see what we’re doing here. We’re moving forward, and we’re not floundering. So, it doesn’t matter how old or young we are; we’re just passionate about what we’re doing, and we’re here to get work done!”
So, basically, if they’re good at what they do (like Lauren and her team) then who cares about all that other stuff! Well, said, Lauren!
As I mentioned, today we’re joined by the director of the Northeastern Nevada Museum, Lauren Roovaart. At the time of this article’s publication, Lauren will be only a week or two shy of her first anniversary in the position. Therefore, we’re excited to have her with us today!
Lauren, can you please walk us through the story of how you got to where you are, today?
“I grew up in Spring Creek. My family moved there in 1993/94. I remember going to the museum when I was a kid; it has always been a comfy and fun place for me. I graduated from Spring Creek High School and then went to a woman’s college in Missouri for two years. I bounced to Washington for a year before completing my undergrad in Reno; I studied art history and medieval studies. I received my graduate degree in London studying auction house procedures and such things. After all of that, I was broke and rearing to come home after about ten years. My husband is also from this area, and he was waiting for me to get back.
“When I moved back to this area, I immediately started applying for jobs not even knowing if there was anything available. I put my name out there, who I was and what I was doing, but I didn’t hear back on anything for two years. The museum was going through a transition as well, right around the time I applied a second time. They were losing an exhibits coordinator, gift shop manager, and the director was also going to be leaving. So, in August of 2015, I became the museum’s exhibits
“After a while, we lost out new director as he was getting ready to move back East. So, in August of 2017, I was asked to become the interim director until someone else was found to fill the position; I told them I would do whatever I needed to help the museum out. In March of 2018, it was decided to make me the official director of the museum!”
So, you grew up in Spring Creek and now have a career in the Elko area. How has living here most of your life impacted your heart and perspective on the community?
“When you’re from and grow up here, it’s easy to have the attitude of wanting to get out and never wanting to come back. I never had that feeling. Yes, I did end up going away for quite some time, but I never disliked being here. I loved seeing the mountains every day when I woke up. I liked going up the canyon, every day, to hang out with my friends. I liked camping and the wide-open space. It’s just beautiful here, all the time!”
What’s “cool” about your job, Lauren? What do you love about your day-to-day work?
“Everything about the job is cool! I’m not just sitting and doing one thing all day. Each day you never know what you’re going to be doing. I focus a lot on the PR of the museum and write our Quarterlies. However, I’m still involved with the exhibits and help with the education programs. It’s fun because everyone who works here is involved; it all blends because we’re like one big brain because everyone’s ideas are good!”
Is there anything about the work that may provide some challenges?
“We want to give the people the best we can give them but acquiring the funding to do some of the new and exciting things we want to do, can be difficult. That’s normal with any museum or non-profit, so we just work around it! Other than that, there really isn’t anything too difficult because we all have a blast doing what we do; everyone here loves this job, immensely. That’s why we’re here; we don’t get paid the “big bucks,” but we love doing what we do!”
What would you say are some of your main goals for you and your team at the museum, Lauren?
“There’s a large group of people who are Elko natives who are members of the museum; they know and appreciate us, and we’re doing our best to serve them. We’re also targeting people who are new to the area by educating them on how unique and fascinating the history here is. We’re rotating and evolving things here all the time. We do a lot of free or low-charge family events, as many as we can. We’re just trying to get people in here!”
Preserving and passing on our area’s history is a vital task. How are you and your team stewarding that mission through your work at the museum? Are the young people in our community responding well to the things you all have to offer?
“We’re getting to a point where the people who truly remember the history are starting to pass. That’s really sad because once they’re gone, nobody else is going to remember. That’s why we’re always looking for somebody whom we can interview and film for our archives. For our current, younger people, it seems like they enjoy coming in here and looking around, especially when someone older is engaged with them, encouraging them not to just walk past the exhibits but to read about and appreciate them.”
Beautiful! Finally, is there anything you would like to leave the AAT readers with as we close our conversation about you and your organization?
“The museum is here for the community. If there’s any way we can help with anything, we would love to. Our archivist is amazing; she will go above and beyond to help you find any record you need. If you’re doing something with 4-H or some other program involving kids, our education coordinator will come up with something for you. We’ll do whatever we can!”
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See you around, Elko!