IT’S NOT SURPRISING that a girl who spent her childhood in a house built in the 1700s in an even older town in one of the thirteen original colonies grew up to earn a Master of Science degree in historical preservation. Less predictable is that this woman earned the degree with the goal of using it in Jackson Hole. “I remember talking to a career counselor near the end of my program and, quite honestly, freaking out. I was thinking: ‘What have I done? I’m in debt and there are maybe three places I can use this degree in Jackson.’” However, just as Morgan Jaouen, now 30, was nearing graduation from the University of Oregon with her MS degree in 2017 one of the three places was looking for a new executive director. “I knew being an ED would be a stretch for me, but I threw my hat in the ring,” she says. She landed the position and started as ED of the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum as soon as she graduated. “Jackson’s isn’t the history of my childhood, but it’s the history I most connect with,” she says. “It’s the same with the community here—this isn’t where I grew up, but it’s such a welcoming and accepting community and where I feel at home. I love this place.”
Q: You’re from Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. How did Jackson, Wyoming, get on your
MJ: I came here with my family on a trip when I was about six. We camped in Yellowstone and Grand Teton [National Parks]. I remember camping at Signal Mountain Lodge on Jackson Lake. That stuck with me.
Q: And then you moved here as an adult?
MJ: My sophomore year in college I applied for a bunch of summer jobs in parks out West and got a job at the Signal Mountain Marina. I was looking for a change, and I had this vivid memory of Signal Mountain from that family trip.
Q: Did it live up to your memory?
MJ: Yes—I remembered a beautiful, inspiring place with incredible views of the lake and Mount Moran, and that synced up and was powerful. I came back for a second summer and realized I wanted to be in Jackson and Grand Teton, but I wanted a job that used my college degree, which was in archaeology.
Q: Is there much archaeology in Jackson Hole?
MJ: The record of human use and occupation in the Tetons dates to about 11,000 years ago. You can literally walk around and find archaeological artifacts like arrowheads.
Q: How did you transition from archaeology to historic preservation?
MJ: After moving here in 2013 I volunteered and got some historic preservation internships in Grand Teton and with the National Council for Preservation Education. Doing these, I realized I enjoyed recent history and the built environment that we can see more readily than evidence of prehistoric people. Eventually I decided to leave Jackson, temporarily, to get my Master’s degree.
Q: Do you have favorite events or people in Jackson Hole’s history?
MJ: I love Betty Woolsey’s story. I got married at Trail Creek Ranch [which Woolsey founded]. And Geraldine Lucas; she had this life back East, but left her husband there and homesteaded here. I really also love the dude ranching era.
Q: Favorite artifacts in the Historical Society’s collection?
MJ: We have about 10,000 objects, more than 18,000 historic photos, and another 10,000 archival records. In the museum there’s a fiddle made from rolled out lard cans. It shows how [early residents] had to be flexible and creative with limited resources.
Q: With all of the wildlife to see and outdoor activities to do here, what’s your argument for telling someone they should visit a history museum?
MJ: People come here for the outdoors, the mountains, the parks, but it’s the community that really makes Jackson Hole special. History is remembering the people—the community—who came before and made Jackson Hole what it is today.
—Interview by Maggie Theodora