Curator’s passion is to preserve and share history

Curator Andrea Lewis, born and raised in Laramie, worked on historic preservation projects and internships in seven states before coming to the Museum of the Mountain Man last year.

When Laramie native

Andrea Lewis spotted a notice advertising a

vacant curator’s position at the Museum of the

Mountain Man in January 2019, she hardly

told anyone about her interest “until it was

over.”

“I wasn’t actively looking for a job but I

saw it on Facebook,” she recalled. “I was going

through the government shutdown and had a

lot of spare time on my hands.”

She and her son Benjamin were living

in West Branch, Iowa, where she worked at

the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library &

Museum.

Lewis undertook many tasks and projects

to gain museum experience. She also worked

at historic sites for the National Park Service,

Department of Defense and the National

Archives. She would do seasonal work for six

months and return to Laramie. The first time,

she left Benjamin with her parents, Dave and

Lisa Shipley, and after that he traveled with her.

“He’s lived in seven different states and he’s

only 11,” she said.

Lewis was nervous about the interviews –

and logistics of moving from Iowa.

“I didn’t tell anybody about it until it was

over,” she said of the hiring process. “My

parents and some coworkers knew and a

couple of close friends.”

It turns out Lewis was already familiar with

this museum and Sublette County because

her mother’s family came from Pinedale. She

didn’t play that trump card when she was

interviewed, though

“We spent a lot of time here vacationing,”

she recalled. “I always loved it here; it’s full

of good memories. I had visited the museum

not long after it opened and other times later.”

Lewis also grew up familiar with the

mountain man era, going to reenactments

with her father, wearing buckskins and even

shooting a black-powder muzzleloader

competitively at 14.

When Museum of the Mountain Man

Director Clint Gilchrist reintroduced her at

this year’s Spring Thaw, he said there was one

notable part of Lewis’s background that she

never divulged to him or the museum board.

“She was our top choice all the way through

the process,” he said. “And she never once said

that she is a Faler.”

Her grandfather, her mother’s father, is

Morris Faler, a longtime local surname.

Coming to work where she played as

a child was a long path starting with an

associate arts degree from Cottey College in

Nevada, Missouri, and a bachelor’s degree in

humanities and fine arts from University of

Wyoming.

“I had been going to school for music but I

kind of lost interest,” she said. She joined the

Army Band to play flute and was medically

discharged after an injury. Lewis got married

and had her son. She then decided to return to

Laramie – and UW.

“I had the opportunity to really think about

what I wanted after my son was born,” she said.

“I thought long and hard and I love history. I

did not want to teach, so the next best thing

was to work in a museum. I fought hard to do

it because a lot of people told me, ‘You’ll never

get a job.’”

At UW, Lewis received her bachelor’s

Curator Andrea Lewis, born and raised in Laramie, worked on historic preservation projects and internships in seven states

before coming to the Museum of the Mountain Man last year.

This museum case holds handmade pieces from Women of the Morning Star members.

Curator’s passion is to preserve and share history

By Joy Ufford

[email protected]

degree in history with a minor in museum

studies and a concentration in historic

preservation. When asked in her Pinedale

interview where she saw herself in five or 10

years, she said, “In a place that I love doing

what I love because I have no idea where my

job will take me but I know that museum work

is what I want to do.”

She was offered the position and gladly

accepted, waiting until her son finished school

to return. She loves her new job.

She’s taken time to familiarize herself

with the collections, local history and board

members. The museum opened 15 days late

due to COVID-19 – May 15 – giving her “a

chance to be a bit more prepared for my first

opening.”

One new display of fur-trade items is on

loan from Women of the Morning Star, the

female complement to the American Mountain

Men – “They are all handmade as historically

accurately as possible.”

She’s making a display of engraved

silverware owned by St. Louis fur-trader

Pierre Chouteau Jr. to contrast with a buffalo

horn spoon-scoop his trappers would have

used. Also, an exhibit is in the works for next

year’s Sublette County Centennial.

And importantly to her, the museum will

undergo collections and building assessments

later this summer “to give us ideas on how to

make better use of our spaces.”

A steppingstone for future grants, Lewis

is interested to “see what comes from it and

how we can better maintain our collections for

future generations

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