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Community , Why NEPA?

Kelly Houghton of the Everhart Museum – Why NEPA?

“Some people are city mice, and some people are country mice. You can grow up a city mouse your whole life, and then suddenly, the country looks so lovely.”

Kelly Houghton’s career has taken her all over the world. But her latest endeavor led her right here to Scranton.

Houghton spent six years with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. She then returned to her native New York City to work with the American Museum of Natural History for fifteen years. Her focus was on traveling exhibits, which allowed her to see the world and live for weeks (or even months) at a time in new, exciting countries.

Now, Houghton brings her talents to the Everhart Museum. As the new curator, she looks forward to creating exhibits, shows and programs for the community, especially as more visitors start returning to the museum post-pandemic.

Houghton has lived in Easton, Pennsylvania, for several years and is now relocating to NEPA. We sat down to talk about her first impressions of Scranton and her hopes and goals for the museum.

 

How long have you lived in PA?

I’ve lived as a resident of Pennsylvania in Easton for, I would say, eight years. And then, I’ve just come up to Scranton to do this job.

What brought you to the Everhart?

The job offered creativity. I’ve been very interested in becoming a more creative person, and that means putting exhibits together from a collection that’s very interesting. The Everhart has a great collection that’s based on what’s called the cabinet of curiosities. Those were collections from the 1850s into the 1900s that were from world travels of aristocrats and rich people. Elites, you could say. They collected curiosities—things from all over the world. A lot of research needs to be done. Labelling is sometimes not even present. You need to understand what you’re dealing with in a way that’s very open and easygoing. I found that the Everhart has all of those elements to build really fun exhibits.

What sparked your interest in museum curating?

I worked in Los Angeles in my 20s. I loved scenery, painting and creating atmospheres and experiences. That translated perfectly to museums. In movies and television, we throw the scenery away, and it doesn’t become educational or purposeful after a movie or TV shoot. In museums, people get to interact with it. The scenery becomes a part of their lives. It becomes a part of their memories. It’s much more meaningful to people. And the Everhart has a rich history of creating memories in people’s lives.

Did anything surprise you about NEPA?

There are great restaurants. There’s a happening downtown. As you drive in and out of Scranton, there are streams and Lake Scranton off of Route 307. There are beautiful vistas and mountain views. It looks like you can take hikes and lead an outdoor lifestyle here. That’s very promising.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

I’m a painter and an art history enthusiast. Everything I enjoy doing has to do with reading and writing and learning more about art and history. But science is my second interest. I read a lot of science magazines, science books and the history of science.

What’s next for you?

What’s next is bringing the Everhart back to public attention in a way that’s really engaging for the public. Getting more people to come through the door—especially through summer and into fall—and letting them know that the pandemic did affect us, but we’re happy to keep providing content to the community. It’s about revamping what’s going on here.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

Scranton was a hub of industry. There is still a rich community here that’s very integrated. That’s what I’m learning from working here. Everybody knows each other. If there’s a business you need, you can find it just with a phone call. Everyone knows somebody that can give you a lead or a contact. It’s a well-connected community that can only get bigger and better.

Why NEPA?

Being a New Yorker, I always say this: some people are city mice, and some people are country mice. You can grow up a city mouse your whole life, and then suddenly, the country looks so lovely. It’s still busy and it’s still suburban and urban, but there’s a rural quality just a step away.

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