The Historic Stanley Home Foundation is excited to announce that we've hired an Executive Director to oversee museum implementation and operations!
RJ Lara joined the Stanley Home Museum & Education Center as Executive Director in May 2020. Tasked with leading the institution through its grand opening and beyond, RJ comes to the Stanley Home from the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Delaware, where he was a Lois F. McNeil Fellow from 2017 to 2019.
Born in Torrington, Wyoming, RJ discovered his love for American history and material culture while exploring small-town museums in the Rocky Mountain region. He has worked in public history institutions for nearly a decade, holding positions in the curatorial department at the Laramie Plains Museum, collections department at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, development department at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, as a research scholar at the Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania, and as a graduate fellow at the Winterthur Museum. At each institution, RJ sought to make history and art accessible to the public through inclusive exhibitions and public programs.
At Winterthur, he co-curated his most important exhibition, Truths of the Trade: Slavery and the Winterthur Collection. The exhibition helped redefine how Winterthur interprets the material culture of slavery and systematically oppressed populations in its permanent collections. The exhibition’s narrative invited visitors to look beyond style and craftspersonship to re-contextualize objects of a broad range of media and consider the complex histories each museum and library object told.
RJ received his BA from the University of Wyoming, majoring in Secondary Education and History with a minor in Museum Studies. After graduating from UW and working for a six-horse hitch harnessmaker, he became deeply committed to studying material culture and American craftspersonship from an earlier period in America’s history. RJ formalized this study by pursuing an MA in American Material Culture from Winterthur and the University of Delaware. His studies focused on the material literacy of early American leather objects—mixing his Western background with Winterthur’s premier collection of objects made or used in America between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Personal note from RJ:
Flora and F.O. Stanley had a remarkable eye for architecture, design, craftspersonship, and innovation. I am excited that we have the opportunity to interpret this part of their legacy in a modern twenty-first-century house museum that is exceptionally positioned to open new avenues of cross-cultural and cross-temporal dialogues through exhibitions, interpretation, preservation, education programs, and research. I am thrilled to lead this ambitious organization at a crucial time in its founding and development, and I look forward to working with the highly engaged Board of Directors to bring history alive with objects that are windows into the past.