Can the past lead to a future? Cait Clark is proving that it can. Clark recently joined the staff at Garst Museum and is already making a difference for the organization. Her primary responsibility will be to organize and implement the museum’s Capital Campaign, but she has also taken on many different roles.
Just like her namesake, Clark is a distant relative of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, her journey to Garst Museum has been a long one. She may not have traversed the wilderness or served under General Anthony Wayne at Greene Ville, but the Greenville native’s journey has taken a lot of twists and turns as she made her way back to the museum.
Clark said her love of history began when she was young. The Arcanum High School and Wright State University graduate’s thirst for learning more about history began when she was in seventh grade. “I found a passion for Lewis and Clark back during that time,” she said.
That interest in history and the need to learn more led to Clark volunteering at Garst Museum when she was in seventh grade. Her continued drive for knowledge also led to her eventually finding her way to Charlottesville, Va. and working at the Thomas Jefferson plantation, Monticello. President Jefferson was responsible for organizing and appointing Merriweather Lewis to the expedition to discover the waterways that would lead to the west coast.
Clark said her interest and research into the Lewis and Clark expedition began long before she knew she was related to the famous explorer. “We had always heard stories from my dad’s side of the family (regarding their relation to William Clark). We made some connections in Kentucky, and one thing led to another,” she shared.
Clark has also worked at the Grand Canyon and spent most of last year working as a substitute teacher at Mississinawa Valley Schools. Those adventures gave her time to continue her research and eventually release her book, From the Treaty City to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark in Greenville, Ohio.
The author admits she stumbled into her return to the Garst Museum. She had been posing as Annie Oakley for the Annie Oakley Foundation Center at Garst Museum, and some of the people that had worked with her in this role felt she would be great for the Capital Campaign position.
While managing the Capital Campaign, Clark will share the mission of the Darke County Historical Society and Garst Museum as she develops relationships as she personally contacts and visits former, current and prospective donors.
Although the Capital Campaign is her main focus at the museum, Clark is also wearing several other hats. She is also an Office Support Specialist where she points visitors in the right direction, helps in the Garst Museum store and answers phones. Also, with her knowledge of Lewis and Clark, she has become the museum’s unofficial interpreter of the famous explorers and their time at Greene Ville. She also dons the Annie Oakley outfit and has become the organization’s Annie Oakley impersonator.
Clark is quickly becoming very knowledgeable about Oakley. She admits that a lot of the things she originally heard and learned about Annie Oakley were part of the myth surrounding the Darke County legend. “I’ve learned that a lot of the things I thought I knew were myths. That’s been so refreshing. I have an even greater respect for her as a person now that I know more,” said Clark.
Her favorite part of the museum, for now, is the Treaty Room, but admits that may change soon. “I have a feeling that my favorite exhibit will be when we get the Lewis and Clark exhibit put in. I’m really excited about those. I can’t wait to participate and plan this,” she said.
Clark has a lot of respect for the museum staff, “They are all very dedicated. They all have one goal and that is to see the museum succeed. That’s always been a goal of mine, even from the outside. Coming in and getting to experience people with like minds has been outstanding,” she said.
Garst Museum President and CEO Clay Johnson, Ph.D. is thrilled with the addition of Clark. “Cait’s local history knowledge, connection to the community, and enthusiasm make her a wonderful and multifaceted asset to the museum staff,” he said. Johnson also recalled Clark’s presentation at the museum and added, “Last October, as a guest speaker discussing her book about Lewis and Clark, she wowed both our audience and staff! I have no doubt her drive, eagerness to help, and ability to share and articulate the museum's mission while fulfilling her unique combined career responsibilities will not only help address our patrons’ needs but also assist in moving our capital campaign drive forward in meeting its goal.”
Clark wants local residents who haven’t been to the museum recently to rediscover the museum. She said, “I would encourage the community to come and visit. We’ve got a lot of new things coming in and going on. The Garst Museum is their museum. It is Darke County’s museum.”