Jan 16, 2015 08:00AM
By Judy Horan
Co-workers at the Durham Museum call curator Carrie Meyer “The Funbuster.” She’s something of a spoil sport. But for a good reason.
She and her staff are responsible for more than 40,000 objects at the museum. Each year, 1,000 more items are donated to the permanent collection. All have ties to Omaha history. All require special care.
The nickname is all in fun. And, for the most part, so is her job as curator of exhibits and collections. She cheerfully describes herself as a “professional nerd.” What might be tedium for others is a passion of hers.
Traveling exhibits are paired with local exhibits— those researched, written, and produced by Durham staff—with the same theme. An example is the exhibit of 44 costumes worn by actress Katharine Hepburn that opens February 7.
Meyer paired that traveling exhibit from Kent State University with a local exhibit of garments and drawings created by costume designer Georgiann Regan for the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Museum visitors often suggest exhibit ideas. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘Why don’t you have dinosaurs,’“ Meyer said.
So she did. The four-month exhibit—A T. Rex Named Sue from Chicago’s Field Museum—contributed to a record year at the Durham with 204,787 visitors in 2013.
A native of Tennessee, Meyer was motivated by television’s CSI to become a biology major. She switched majors to earn a degree in art history in 2005 from Rhodes College in Memphis. After watching the movie The Mummy, she discovered the world of museum history and thought “Could I do that?” Meyer moved to Waco, Texas, to pursue a Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Baylor University, while working two jobs.
In 2007, Meyer became curatorial associate at the Ak-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Clewiston, Florida, run by the Seminole Tribe She joined the Durham in 2008.
Meyer is pursuing a Master of Arts in History at UNO with an emphasis on Omaha history. In 2014, she was appointed to the Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission.
Along the way, Meyer learned that collecting local history can entail some long hours and odd side trips. Durham staff was at TD Ameritrade Park in 2011 to collect programs commemorating the opening day of the ball field. “We keep an eye on the things happening today that people will want to know tomorrow,” Meyer said.
Some day that program will become historical. And when it is, “The Funbuster” will ensure nobody mishandles a piece of Omaha history.