by Lauren Allen
Rachel Myers considers herself a facilitator of shared experiences.
The Fondrenite has recently accepted a position as the Director of the Museum of Mississippi History, which will open its doors in December of 2017. As such, she will be part of a Mississippi Department of Archives and History team of 140+ people. Myers explained, “”I haven’t started yet! But I’ll mainly be working to get the building ready to open on December 9th, then the everyday activity in the museum, managing staff, welcoming visitors, planning exhibitions and public programs.”
Myers began her journey to Mississippi from Connecticut. It was through an internship at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, located at the Henry S. Jacobs camp in Utica that she fell for the South. As a student at Brandeis University, she acquired work-study at the New England Aquarium where she said fell in love with education. Since her days at Brandeis University, Myers has acquired a masters degree from Johns Hopkins in museum studies.
A large portion of the educating that Myers has done is in supporting and celebrating Jewish culture in the South, something she had done for the last seven years as the museum and special projects coordinator at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.
“”I’m intrinsically interested in bringing exposure to the region’s culture and diversity through the lens of Jewish experiences,” Myers said.
While the Institute’s museum has not had a physical location since 1986, Myers managed their extensive collection, ran their outreach education program designed for secular classrooms and handled tourism, historic preservation and fundraising. Admittedly a fan of experiential education, at ISJL, she was able to bring all of these skills together.
To know Myers is to also know she a huge fan of her young son, Eli. Raising a son, she said, has shifted how she looks at her neighborhood, her city and the future that she is building. She wants to raise Eli with the understanding that privileged voices can be used for good, to help him build a better future.
“I’ve seen Fondren through a new lens,” she explained. “Raising a tiny person has allowed [my husband Chris and I] to see the values of our city and allowed us to access different parts of the city.” Her smile broadened as she spoke about the strong parent community that is blossoming in Fondren.
Myers has been involved with Jackson 2000’s dialogue circle program,.. thatÂ invite participants to speak about their own experience with race in our community, identifying personal bias and considering reflective questions Â like “what makes you feel that way?”Â These conversations feed her passion and curiosity about what she called our “complex and complicated part of the country.”
That same ideology follows Myers to her new position at the Museum of Mississippi History. “I’ve come to explore and appreciate the diversity of our state’s stories and understand the importance of presenting multiple narratives that support an experience that is relevant to a wide audience,” she said.
Myers holds sincere faith in the power of museums. When talking about her new role, she asserted, “To be named the first director of a new museum of this caliber is a great and humbling honor. There is an intrinsic value in the public space that museums offer. A place to linger, learn and interact with a diverse audience is now more than ever important to our society.”