The New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education (NMHM) announced today that its first Executive Director Leon Natker will be leaving January 11. Natker has been offered a senior management position at the soon to be opened First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City where he will be Associate Director of Institutional Advancement.
Natker said, “It is a great honor to have been chosen as the first ever Executive Director of NMHM. I am deeply grateful to the board of directors for their confidence in me. I feel we have made much progress in a truly short time.” Natker started as a consultant with the local museum in September of 2019 and became the first Executive Director in December of that year. He was tasked with professionalizing the museum’s operations and improving visibility. During his tenure, all of the exhibits were redesigned and upgraded. New exhibits include Colonization: Racism and Resilience, a look at the experience of the Indigenous peoples of New Mexico during colonization by both the Spanish and Americans. Other exhibits are Slavery in America: Reconstruction to WWII, which explores the African American experience in the century following emancipation, and The Chinese Exclusion Act, a brief history of the first racially motivated law passed by the U.S. Congress. Natker said “These exhibits are not meant to be comprehensive histories. They are designed to build awareness of acts of hatred and intolerance throughout our history. It is our hope that patrons will be interested enough to explore other sources.”
In addition, the museum has brought its library and archival software and tracking into compliance with standards set by the American Alliance of Museums. Education programs have been expanded and the museum’s name was changed to honor its founders Werner and Frankie Gellert. The museum has also joined in collaborations with the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and the regional Anti-Defamation League. “I feel I’m leaving the museum in a much better place than it was when I was hired,” Natker said. The museum will continue operations with Lyn Berner as Managing Director.
In a statement, board President Raye Cohen said, “We are sad to see Leon go but understand that this is an opportunity he can’t turn down. We wish him well.”
The museum has been closed due to Covid but will re-open, it is hoped, later in January.