Historical society names leader

Gary Kremer was a unanimous selection.
Thursday, September 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:59 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Missouri native and longtime state historian has taken the reins of Missouri’s largest historical records collection.

Gary Kremer, who has researched Missouri history since the late 1960s, has been named executive director of the State Historical Society of Missouri and director of the University of Missouri system’s Western Historical Manuscript Collection.

Kremer succeeds Jim Goodrich, who served as the society’s executive director for more than 18 years. Goodrich, also a former member of the Columbia City Council, retired in April after a stroke.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Bruce Beckett, president of the society, outlined the nationwide search that led to Kremer’s appointment.

“We had applicants ranging from people in Missouri to people in South Carolina and California,” Beckett said. “We chose three candidates with the knowledge, experience, academic credentials and interest in Missouri history that we deemed necessary for the position.”

Beckett said the society’s board of trustees unanimously selected Kremer on Friday.

“There’s no question that we have one of the finest authorities on Missouri history as our new executive director,” he said.

Lynn Wolf Gentzler, the society’s associate director, said Kremer is widely known and respected by many people involved in public and academic history.

“I think his scholarship in Missouri history and the fact that he’s known by so many state historical groups made him the best choice,” Gentzler said.

Addressing reporters in the society’s art gallery in Ellis Library, Kremer reminisced about his research. He said that when he was an undergraduate at Lincoln University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he made trips to the historical society’s newspaper library to research term papers.

“I’m delighted to come here on an everyday basis — I used to do this for fun,” Kremer said. “The study of history, for me, is more than a job; it’s a passion.”

Kremer said his primary mission will be to increase the society’s visibility to Missourians, particularly to youth, and he wants to employ technology in doing so.

“I think that it’s a challenge for any historical society to draw young people, but I’ve come to understand that young people can be led to an interest in history,” he said. “One way we can raise the visibility of the society to all Missourians is to start an electronic format.”

Kremer said he has already talked with David Moore, associate director of the society’s Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, about putting some of the society’s collections online.

Kremer also said he hopes to start a public relations campaign for the society in the coming months, letting Missourians know what a great resource they have.

Reflecting his line of research that includes books and documentaries, Kremer said he also hopes to launch an oral history project about Missouri blacks and women within the next year. He said that Missouri history, like much of American history, has emphasized rich white males, but that there are important stories to be told about the working class, women and minorities.

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