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Historical society has a new director

Aspen Times Staff Report

The hint of a soft Southern drawl is among the changes at the Wheeler/Stallard House that will greet the public at the museum’s reopening this evening.

Grace Gary, a native of west Tennessee and the new executive director of the Aspen Historical Society, will be on hand for tonight’s reception. She replaces Sam Shogren, who left about a year ago.

Gary will actually assume her new role in late April, after she makes the move from New Orleans, where she has been executive director of Longue Vue House and Gardens. An 8-acre estate that is open to the public as a historic house/museum, Longue Vue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Her lengthy rsum of positions in historic preservation also includes a stint with the Williamsburg Tourism Leadership Center, part of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia. She was also executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania; director of The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s mid-Atlantic regional office; and, before that, director of The National Trust’s mountains/plains regional office in Oklahoma and then Denver.

The mountains/plains region includes Colorado. “I’m not a complete stranger, is what I’m trying to say,” Gary said.

Now, she said, she is looking forward to leaving the “awful weather” of New Orleans behind and immersing herself in the climate and history of Aspen.

“I’m very excited by everything the historical society is doing,” she said. “The people who are involved with the historical society are just wonderful. I think the chamber of commerce should put them on retainer.

“It’s a pretty amazing group of people. I think it will be fun to work with them,” she said.

Gary said she’s also excited about Aspen’s relatively recent history, compared to the East and South, where families trace their roots back to the 17th century.

During her stint in Denver in the early ’80s, Gary said she was struck by the West’s insecurity about its relatively recent history, at least in terms of white settlement.

“The real wonderful thing about it is it’s so real because it’s not so far removed,” she said. “The Wheeler/Stallard House – that’s first generation Aspen history. That doesn’t exist anywhere in the East.

“I think what you’ve got out here is very wonderful.”

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