Mary McMurray loves history—and it shows! Mary fell in love with museums visiting traveling exhibits with her grandpa and going on a fieldtrip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. While attending graduate school, Mary interned at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, an experience that sealed her fate as an aspiring museum professional. She was so moved by the power of museums to share stories, build communities, and inspire, that she knew she had to join the field.
After stints at metro museums and historic sites, she now heads up the Johnson County Museum as director. We caught up with the University of Kansas Ph.D. grad to find out five things you don’t know about the self-proclaimed historian.
5. “I own nearly 20 military wife guidebooks, but I’ve never been married to a member of the armed services. I have, however, written a dissertation on the development of Army family policy from 1942 to 1983. If you want to know something about packing and unpacking a home or, say, the hierarchy of beverages at a tea for officers’ wives in the 1950s, just ask!”
4. “My first job out of college was at the Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch just a few blocks north of the Johnson County Museum. Although I never warmed to washing cars in a business suit, I absolutely loved my year working for Enterprise. I learned a lot about business and customer service, made some lasting friendships, and most importantly, met my husband, Sean Ewbank, while working there. I’m forever grateful he picked me up! (Get it? Enterprise’s tagline is ‘We’ll Pick You Up.’)”
3. “I almost knocked Madeleine Albright to the ground in a bathroom. The near miss happened when I worked for the Truman Library Institute. Event days were always hectic, especially when someone like Secretary Albright was in the building. At some point during the day, I found myself with a spare minute and raced to the nearest restroom. As I barreled around the corner to the stalls, I saw Madeleine Albright heading right for me. Miraculously, I managed to stop my momentum by jumping up and over and narrowly missed knocking over the former secretary of state.”
2. “I went to prom with my dad. I didn’t intend for my dad to be my prom date. (I had planned to go stag.) But when my plan to break my high school’s antiquated rules requiring students to attend in heterosexual pairings backfired, and the principal refused to allow me in without a date, my dad came running to my rescue—after he asked if he should go home and put on his tux.”
1. “As a child, one of my favorite books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. I often daydreamed about what it would be like to have a museum all to myself like the book’s main character Claudia Kincaid and her brother had when they ran away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, thanks to COVID-19, I have the Johnson County Museum to myself almost every day. Turns out it’s not as fun as childhood me had thought. I—and the whole staff—miss the public! We cannot wait until it is safe to welcome the community back to this cultural treasure and get back to making history with you all!”