In case you missed it, Jenni Opalinski, curator for Historic Waco Foundation, was featured in the Waco Tribune-Herald last month! She came to the Historic Waco Foundation from Midland's Museum of the Southwest, where she was the exhibitions and collections manager and registrar for seven years. She has a passion for history, the stories of the historic homes of Waco, and making those stories accessible to the community. We sat down with Jenni to go a little deeper into her job and are excited to share it!
What excites you most about being curator for HWF?
The most exciting thing about being curator for the Historic Waco Foundation is the opportunity to share my love of history with the community. History Museums can sometimes be portrayed as old, stuffy, antiquated and not relevant to events occurring today. I feel that it is my job to help make history more approachable and easily presented. With technology and all that is available on the internet, museums have a unique challenge to be relatable to the younger generations and to ensure the information being presented is as true as possible. I enjoy sifting through research, confirming sources (both on the internet and in print) and re-crafting the information for visitors. What I love most about historic houses and sites - is when you stand where history happened - it comes alive!
What is something most people don't know about your job?
I think most people have a stereotypical picture of a curator's role in a museum, and that is nowhere near what I do on a daily basis. My specialty is collections management and museum standards. To the layperson this means proper storage and archival materials, detailed record-keeping and paperwork about the objects in the permanent collection. My goal is to take care of these artifacts so they will be around for the next generation.
If you could live in any era of history, what would it be and why?
I feel honored to live in the current time frame because of all the modern conveniences - running water, internet, world-wide travel, telephone & stability - however, I would love to be able to travel to different historical eras and cultures. Tudor England has always held a fascination for me. I love the dresses, the chivalry, the drama! - but I would not want to live there permanently with all the backstabbing, threats and lack of adequate medicine. Visiting the Great Wall of China in person made me want to see the wall being used as a fortress. If only I could travel back to ancient Macedonia and follow Alexander the Great on one of his campaigns. Possibly to even visit Cleopatra and aid in her pursuit of Marc Anthony (pre-snake of course!). In doing research about the families that lived in the houses - I would love to come to Waco during their lives, meet them and discuss their motivations and passions. As a historian - picking one era of history is like a mother picking a favorite child - it can't be done!
Can you give any hints about the exhibit you're working on now?
I spent several hours yesterday researching a few things for the upcoming exhibition. This research included a 19th century game, pier mirrors and the history of pocket doors. How's that for a teaser?!