Shelton House names museum operations manager

By Evelyn M. Coltman | Jun 04, 2013
Photo by: Evelyn Coltman Malinda Messer, Operations Manager, and Jackie Stephens, Curator, at the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts in historic Shelton House

The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts in the historic Shelton House announces Malinda Messer as its museum operations manager.

Messer will join Jackie Stephens, who has served the last eight years as the museum’s curator.  Messer will assist with the ever-growing duties of running the museum, which houses hundreds of crafts from all over the state while showcasing the home, circa 1875, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As operations manager, Messer said she believes that she has found the perfect setting in which to pursue her life-long avocation,  genealogy and local history research, while studying the Shelton family and assisting Stephens in documenting craft artifacts from around the state.   Together, Messer and Stephens will perform the tasks of conducting tours, directing docents, researching local history, arranging displays, accessioning museum pieces, overseeing craft demonstrations and special events, and discovering long-hidden farm equipment and other treasurers in the eaves of the barn.

Both curator and operations manager have extensive work accomplishments outside the museum setting.  In her early career in Chicago, Stephens owned and operated a portrait photography studio and film processing plant, winning a number of state awards in photography. Stephens, with training in medical law, has also worked in administration for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, has taught living skills to mentally challenged adults and has performed volunteer work for the hospital in Haywood County for over a decade.

Messer received a degree in computer science with a minor in English literature  at Duke University. Early in her career, she provided data processing services to scientific research teams and then worked as Assistant to the Director of Development at the Durham Arts Council.  Later, she formed her own consulting business, providing software design, engineering and management services to a diverse clientele including J.P. Morgan, the New York Stock Exchange, the Ford Foundation and a local investment business.

As an accomplished writer with a passion for business, humor, mountain heritage, fine arts, folk arts and crafts, Messer has written numerous articles for the travel/tourism industry.  In addition, the NC Society of Historians awarded the Paul Green Multi-Media Award to Messer and others for Bethel Rural Community Organization’s historical DVD, Walking in the Footsteps of Those Who Came Before Us; Messer assisted with direction and scripting of the production.  Both Stephens and Messer have published articles in the Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain series of books which won the Barringer Award of Excellence from the NC Society of Historians in 2010.

Messer said she believes her former jobs have qualified her for her new role of managing the daily operations and performing administrative functions at the museum.  Messer’s experience will be a welcome addition to Stephens’s wide-ranging background, which includes training in art, photography and business.

Messer became involved with the Shelton House several years ago when she became a docent in the Native American room and a storyteller at the museum’s annual Ghosts and Goblets event.  Her volunteer involvement served as her introduction to the valuable historical and crafts collection housed at Shelton House and barn.  When the job became available to work with Stephens, Messer knew that her varied training over the years and her volunteer work with the Shelton House would suit her for the duties of accessioning artifacts, conducting tours, and delving into the history of the Shelton House/family as well as craft contributors to the Museum.  Messer said she is especially fortunate to work with Stephens whose penchant for arranging artistic displays for the museum, extensive understanding of crafts and artisans, and familiarity with the Shelton family history make her the keeper-of-knowledge of Shelton history.

“The museum is fortunate to have two highly qualified individuals to administer the museum’s mission of honoring the Shelton family legacy and preserving the North Carolina heritage of handicrafts and history through collections and displays, as well as educational and recreational community events,”  Sarah Jane League, Chair of the Shelton House Board, said.