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New director takes helm at Prairie Village Museum

By Sue Sitter - | Sep 5, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Prairie Village Museum Executive Director Jennifer Willis is flanked by board members Dr. Hubert Seiler (left), Dennis Miller and Dave Bednarz.

Jennifer Willis’ first few days as the Prairie Village Museum’s new executive director have kept her busy discussing projects, exhibits and events.

“I’ve been here a week now, and almost 24/7, my thoughts are on museums and doing the research online about different things that I can see need a little help,” Willis said as she took a break to chat in her office. “So, I’m focused on getting those things ready to present to the board next week, and hopefully, we can discuss them.”

Willis, who lives near Harvey, said an interest in history led her to her post.

“I’ve always had an interest in old buildings and antiques, things of that nature, so when I saw the opportunity for the museum, I thought it would be great to jump on it,” Willis said.

“I’m originally from Texas,” Willis noted. She said she and her husband, John, moved to the Harvey area “about 20 years ago.”

“We have two daughters, Angelica and Kristanna,” she added.

Willis said she has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Master of Science in management and leadership. “I’m working on my MBA right now,” she noted.

Willis added, “I’m studying operating an actual museum myself.”

“I have had experience with non-profits,” she noted. “I was a gaming manager for Wells-Sheridan Aging Council in Harvey for a couple of years. I’ve done management for the New Rockford Transcript in the office. Management-wise, I have a lot of experience.”

“Working with the arts is a little new to me. I enjoy the museum a lot though, and my interest runs pretty deep,” Willis added.

“I’ve always liked Rugby,” Willis noted. “My daughters were both actually born here. Rugby has a lot of opportunities for shopping and nice restaurants. The people are always really friendly.”

“The museum itself, I love the historical aspects,” Willis added. “I love the little vignettes in each building. I can see working to improve upon what exists already and making it attract more visitors.”

Willis said the 2020 season is “winding down. At the end of the month, we’re having the harvest festival. I’m hoping to see a wide turnout for that.”

“I know a lot of people are frustrated at being stuck at home and not being able to do anything and I think the festival will give them an opportunity to stretch their legs a little bit at least,” she added.

When asked if past lecture presentations sponsored by the museum would continue after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Willis said, “We really haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to discuss lectures and things going forward yet. I’m hoping next week we’ll kind of have an idea of which direction to head towards next year.”

“I hope everybody can stop out and say, ‘hi,'” Willis said. “My door’s always open.”

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