We had the good fortune of connecting with Rena Lawrence and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rena, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Log Cabin Village would be nothing without our wonderful historical interpreters and the amazing warmth and human connection they provide. They are the ones who facilitate moments of magic, curiosity, and wonder for visitors from age 3 to 93 (and beyond) from all around the world. It’s always been very important to me that we hire engaging and interesting people, whether they have a background in history or not. We can teach them history; it’s more difficult to teach true, genuine kindness and compassion. I once read a national museum visitor study that indicated a large percentage of visitors didn’t feel like museum staff in general cared whether they were there or not. I’m very proud of the fact that visitors to Log Cabin Village leave KNOWING they are important to us and that we care about them. We work to build a genuine connection in the brief time visitors are with us. We strive to build and maintain a workplace where our employees feel cared for, valued, and encouraged to take risks as well. Frontline staff are empowered to suggest and implement operational changes, program ideas, and site improvements. I may be the site supervisor, but they are the experts on daily visitor engagement. And it takes ALL of us to help our visitors “escape the present…experience the past!”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been living out my geeky dreams as a professional museum nerd for almost 25 years. While museum careers are glamorous and often require advanced degrees, organizations are rarely able/willing to pay a living wage. When I started out a living history museum in Kansas City, MO, I worked “part-time” at 39 hours/week with no benefits (despite having a Master’s Degree). I took a second job at a bookstore just to make ends meet! I moved to Texas for a better museum job in 2001, but still worked two jobs until I was able to get a roommate–my husband. In 2004, I was hired as the Museum Educator at Log Cabin Village, a 19th c. living history museum owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth’s Park & Recreation Department. Over the past 17 years I went on to become the Assistant Historic Site Supervisor and now I am the Historic Site Supervisor (government speak for Museum Director). I love my job, coworkers, and site, and plan to be here at Log Cabin Village until I retire!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m contractually obligated to say Log Cabin Village, first and foremost. All jokes aside, I do take visitors to the Village because it’s a chance to experience hands-on history. Right now it’s especially enjoyable because it’s a safe, outdoor place to go during COVID-19. I would also plan to visit the Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, as well as the amazing museums in the Cultural District. For dining, we’d have to check out some of the fun places on Magnolia Street, as well as Fort Worth/Keller breweries for some local flavor. I always like to stick with small, unique, local restaurants and shops for visitors (and typically without). We’d definitely also need to hit the Trinity Trails via Fort Worth Bike-Sharing!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wonderful husband Bryan and son Evan; my amazing co-supervisor and partner-in-crime, Shae Nawoj; and my compassionate and creative longtime supervisor/friend, Kelli Pickard.
City of Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village