Inspiration from the community
Rorie Cartier admits that before he came here, he hadn’t heard much about Fredericksburg, but he knew about the National Museum of the Pacific War.
After a year on the job as the director of the National Museum of the Pacific War, Cartier is at home maneuvering through the construction areas, stopping to talk to visitors and sitting in his second-floor office overlooking Main Street to talk about his role at the local museum dedicated to telling the story of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and World War II in the Pacific.
Cartier first arrived in Fredericksburg for an assistant director of development – membership job with the Admiral Nimitz Foundation.
“I came here still not sure about the job,” he said. “But then you meet the people here and you see the campus and it is just incredibly special.”
After sitting down with Gen. Michael Hagee (USMC, ret.), president and CEO of the foundation, Cartier understood the staff’s desire and passion for their jobs.
“It was a no brainer that this is the place I wanted to be,” Cartier said.
He spent five months working with the Admiral Nimitz Foundation and when former museum director Joe Cavanaugh retired, he was encouraged by Hagee and senior staff to apply for the position.
“This is my first job as a museum director,” Cartier said, “so there is just a little pressure.”
Prior to coming to Fredericksburg, Cartier earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees before earning a doctorate in modern European history from Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland, and taught at several universities.
Cartier was teaching at the University of New Orleans and also working at the National World War II Museum in that city.
He spent about six years at the museum in New Orleans, including two years in collections and curatorial before moving to development and senior management.
“That gave me a good insight into what to do here,” Cartier said. “This job is very busy and very important.
“And the incredible staff makes the job easier than it should be,” he added.
One of the goals for the National Museum of the Pacific War, Cartier said, is to become an internationally-known entity for research and education by 2025.
“We’ve already taken steps to build our brand, and in the past year alone, we have put in our new orientation movie gallery and started an education program so we can now do distance learning and education outreach,” Cartier said.
The museum is part of Connect2Texas, which gives teachers and others from around the globe access to the museum.
For example, he said, if a teacher types in something like “World War II Lesson Plan – Pacific War,” the museum will pop up.
“We can instantly be in their classrooms around the globe,” he said.
Also, the museum has just completed one of the final steps in attaining American Alliance of Museums accreditation. Cartier explained that only about two percent of museums across the country have this accreditation.
To earn the accreditation, museums must meet top tier standards that range from financial controls, to interacting with guests, to taking care of artifacts, to how they tell their story and how they use education to inform others.
They have completed the self-study, which has been accepted and approved, and are awaiting one more site visit before getting the accreditation.
“This will help bring us notability and prestige,” Cartier said. “When researchers see us, they see a top tier place to do research because it’s accurate, it’s strong and it’s been vetted.”
Cartier said the museum’s remodeling project is going “awesome.”
“We’re creating a new universal designed museum gallery,” he said. “What that means is that it is accessible for everyone through digital interactives and learning games and activities, while doubling the size of the artifacts on display.”
With the new displays, Cartier said that they will be able to show and teach more about Admiral Nimitz and his life, which is also important, while still showing the beginning of Fredericksburg as it relates to the Nimitz family and the hotel.
“We are also going to focus on Nimitz and his legacy,” the director said.
With this current project, the museum is also installing an environmental system that is stable and good for the artifacts.
Source of pride
Cartier said that it didn’t take long for him to learn that the museum is a source of pride for the community.
“It caught me off guard,” he admitted, “but now I understand it. Everyone here has their story that connects to this place. They have great stories and fond memories.
“It has surprised me and it does add a little pressure to the job, but it’s a good pressure and I love it,” he said.
The community support in this area is definitely unique.
“The interaction between us and the community is so phenomenal. I haven’t seen that anywhere else,” he said.
Cartier said he is also grateful to have the opportunity to work under someone like Hagee.
“It’s his personality and his demeanor,” Cartier said. “The first time you meet him you are in awe — not intimidated — just impressed.
“He is a good person to work for, he cares and is so dedicated to Fredericksburg, which is really great for this museum, because we see that reciprocated.”
Cartier is also full of praise for the staff, calling their efforts collaborative.
“It’s not who works for who, it’s about working together,” he said. “We are one team that works together for our museum and our mission and you rarely find that.”
He added, “We all do everything. No job is too big or small. If it’s for the good of the museum, there is no hesitation.”
While his new job keeps him busy, Cartier did complete the most recent Leadership Gillespie County session.
He and his wife, Erin, bought a home here, and she works in marketing and brand management for Schreiner Goods in Kerrville.
He admits it was a bit unnerving moving here after living in several large cities. “Everyone is so genuine. People care and that is so nice and wonderful,” he said.
And he wants to extend that caring attitude back into the community.
“I would love for people to know that I’m here and I’m open,” Cartier said. “If they have any suggestions or if they want to talk, I would love to hear from them.”
“We are always looking for advice. We really are,” he said. “We are part of the community and we want to understand and hear what the community expects of us.”