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Hometown Proud: Carla Jordan of the Cape Girardeau County History Center

Hometown Proud features a person each week that helps make the community better.

Carla Jordan is the director of the Cape Girardeau County History Center, which opened March 2015. She also runs the Lutheran Heritage Center Research Library & Museum in Altenburg, Mo.

How did you get involved with creating this history center?

We started the discussions in 2015 with the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society board because they had received an endowment from Shelby and Mildred Brown to start a history site.

At about the same time, this building became available and my preservation firm, CL Jordan Preservation, subcontracted with them to develop the site.

Now we’ve been open for two years and things couldn’t be better. There’s two meetings going on here at the same time right now, and we’re thriving. It’s a hub — not just for uptown Jackson, but for all of Cape County.

What drew you to working with history and museums?

Well, I’ve done it for 30 years. I’m a Native American/Scotch-Irish woman who was raised in Indian Territory on Route 66, so it’s just kinda indigenous for me to be interested in history.

A lot of my early work was done in my hometown of Baxter Springs, Kansas, and I was trained by the best down there. My preservation firm preserved quite a bit of things on Route 66, that’s how I started in the museum world.

And then after I’d done the work for a very long time, my husband, Dr. [Stephen] Jordan, was relocated 20 years ago to Saint Francis in Cape. And you have the best historic preservation program in the country there at Southeast Missouri State University. So basically I got the fishing license, the degree, to do what I’d been doing.

What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?

Right now I’m directing two sites and my preservation firm. I’ve been director of the Lutheran Heritage Center in Altenburg for 13 years, and I’ve been here for three. So what drew me here was that I like to do development.

My training is in archives, ironically, and it’s the one thing I never get to do. But my favorite thing is probably exhibit design.

What are you most proud of here?

I am most proud of the relationships that we have with our more than 30 active docents [museum guides and educators,] the business leaders. I’m proud of my relationship with the City of Jackson, I’m proud of my relationship with the City of Cape and I’m proud of our relationship as a part of the very healthy uptown Jackson environment. It seems like we’ve been here longer than three years.

What do you like most about this area?

What I like most about this area is the rich history, and being given the permission to interpret that. I love the river. I love the river culture. I’m very proud of the fact that now we are actually hosting, in Jackson, the shore excursion of American Queen and American Duchess riverboat tours. So that’s exciting about being in this area. You can’t do Mississippi River tour boats if you live in Kansas.

And I really love being a part of a small community, because I was raised in a small community. So I have a lot of fun just being in uptown Jackson. This is a very healthy environment right now, not to minimalize that I’m also excited that we can interpret the entire county here.

What is something you think most people don’t know about you?

Hmm, I think most people don’t know that I’m a greyhound activist, that I rescue retired greyhounds. I don’t think they know that until they’re my ‘lovies,’ and then once they’re my ‘lovies’ that’s all I here about.

I don’t think they know that I’m a musician—that I can sing. That’s a great question, by the way. I had to pause for that one and usually I always have something to say. …

I’ve also adopted all my children and I’m a huge advocate for children. I mentor a lot of young people, and I love helping historic preservation students get jobs. My students have gone out in the world and some of them are running preservation in the country.

Is there anything else you would still like to do?

Yes, I would like to set up a world-class research library with the archive center and the genealogical society, as a hub for people to do genealogical research like we have in Altenburg.

We have thousands of people who come to Altenburg to do their family research. We already have a world-class genealogical society here in Cape County and we have a killer county archives, but we need a place for people to come and do their family research.

That would be a dream that I would have for Cape County and Jackson. A personal dream that I have is to do more work with tribal people in Oklahoma.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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