Holocaust Museum announces appointment of its first executive director

January 3, 2020

Following several months as a consultant, Leon Natker, MA, RPA, has become the first ever executive director of the New Mexico Holocaust Museum.

“We are delighted to welcome Leon to our staff; he is part of our ongoing program to professionalize the museum,” said Victor P. Raigoza, chairman of the board of directors. “Leon will be leading our effort to expand all of our programs and exhibits and to move to a larger permanent venue.”

NMHM has served the New Mexico community for nearly 19 years. Its educational programs impact thousands of middle and high school students each year teaching about the Holocaust as well as other crimes and genocides motivated by ethnic and religious bigotry.

Natker is an archaeologist/anthropologist and an artist. He attended New York’s famed Juilliard school before embarking on a career in musical theater and opera. Eventually he turned to directing which took him to San Diego where he was invited to become the executive director of Lyric Opera San Diego. During his tenure in San Diego he grew the organization from a community-based company to a $2.5 million professional regional company. In 2000, the need for a new home for the company led Leon into the world of historic preservation. Putting together a public/private enterprise, he led the $8-million capital campaign to restore the historic 1928 North Park Theater.

Leon holds degrees in archaeology from Eastern New Mexico University and museum studies from the University of New Mexico. His museum experiences include positions in collections management and co-curation of exhibits at the Maxwell Museum, Blackwater Draw, and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. He is a published author and lecturer in archaeology and ethnology of the southwest. Most recently, Leon served as executive director for the Mesa Historical Museum.

“I’m delighted to return home to New Mexico to lead this important cultural institution,” said the Rio Rancho resident. “Many exciting changes are coming and I’m looking forward to working with the staff and the entire New Mexico community.”