LA GRANGE, Ky.(March 2004) A new face now greets visitors
to the Oldham County History Center. Nancy Stearns Theiss has replaced
Anita Fritz as executive director.
The History Center is ideal for me, said Theiss, 51. I
know the county well.
Theiss, a native of Oldham County, learned of the vacant position
from Fritzs husband, Dennis. Theisss decision to apply
for the job was based in part on past experience as director of several
educational, non-profit centers in the state.
She has traveled most of the state in her past position as director
for an environmental program for the state. She said it was good
to be here and work on a local project. The location puts Theiss
closer to home and husband, Jim, who is an attorney in La Grange.
The couple has two children, Jimmy Dan and Jessie.
Theiss has been a director for the Louisville Nature Center and is
currently on the faculty at the University of Louisville, where she
is completing her doctorate degree. Theiss has also taught in the
Jefferson County school system.
A search committee narrowed down the applicants to three candidates,
said Historical Society Vice President Duane Murner. Theiss was ultimately
chosen because she is familiar with the county, has a good relationship
with the people of Oldham County, and has a heightened sense of what
it takes to initiate programs and carry them out, said Murner.
One of Theisss goals for the History Center is for it to become
more user friendly for families and children, she said.
One way she has put this plan into action is by establishing a series
of childrens workshops on Saturday mornings called Finding
My Sense of Place. Geared toward children ages 5-12, these workshops
feature activities that help children identify the special cultural
and natural history features of the region.
Theiss seeks to educate students and teachers by implementing programs
structured around the unique collection of a variety of artifacts
housed at the Center. By viewing these artifacts, children gain a
sense that the history the objects depict is real. Theiss said that
often we are so focused on the present and future that we often overlook
the past and the lessons it teaches us.
She has launched a new summer series of exhibits titled, Our
Cultural Diversity Exhibits. These displays point out the cultures
that are unique to the county, said Theiss.
The 2004 exhibit theme revolves around Oldham Countys African
American Heritage, and many local citizens have already contributed
to this exhibit. The result of a recently completed volunteer project
is a survey of the African American Cemeteries in Oldham County. Many
cemeteries are listed in this book that sells for $17.50 at the History
Center or Karens Book Barn.
Oldham County is changing so rapidly that we want people moving
into the county to be aware of our resources and opportunities to
observe and educate themselves, Theiss said. She wants to show
newcomers that they, too, can be involved in the community in a historical
perspective, while the county still retains its unique heritage.
Theiss plans to use as many resources in the county as possible to
bring about a better understanding of history. A lecture series has
been conceived, built around the soon-to-open Irish Rover Too restaurant
on Main Street in La Grange. Three dates and speakers have been set
for May 12, July 14 and Nov. 10.
She is also concentrating her efforts on a spring membership drive
for the Center. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 2 at the John W. Black
Community Center, Dr. James Claypool will be the featured speaker
at a fund raising dinner. Tickets can be purchased for $12.
Theiss described her position as executive director of the History
Center as fun. The wonderful thing about this job is that it
is very creative.
Her skills are not limited to the resources within the center. Plans
are in the works to extend the gardens behind the center and open
the root cellar in an effort to concentrate on conservation education.
The 1880 Presbyterian Church owned by the History Center, will be
restored and used as classroom space to encourage people to visit
the center and provide an on-site lecture facility.
Murner said Theiss brought additional advantages to the table through
her deep involvement in the area of botany. She has been a very
significant help to us in drafting conservation grants, he said.
Patricia Michael helped start the History Center, Anita Fritz pulled
it together and established an ongoing enterprise, and Theiss will
carry out the next stage of its development, Murner said. He believes
she will present programs in an aggressive way to the community, while
promoting an outside interest in Oldham County. Fritz will continue
to volunteer, serve on the 2004 Gala Committee and continue her work
on the Veterans History Project.
Theiss plans to implement county tours for visitors and residents
alike of Oldham County. She would also like to see a celebration
of different communities in the future.
A current exhibit titled Helping in Times of Need: Oldham Countys
Red Cross, will run until April 15. Several childrens
workshops have been planned to coincide with the exhibit, in which
children learn to make an emergency kit, care packages and friendship
Murner said Theiss will continue and expand on our presence
as a significant force in the county.
Hours for the Oldham County History Center are 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information call Theiss
at (502) 222-0826.