Liz Stemm joined the staff of the Osceola County Historical Society in June 2012 as the organization’s first official curator. Although she was not raised in Osceola County, she was born and raised in Arcadia, FL – where her family’s “cracker” heritage was celebrated. Liz’s grandmother, Arlyn Whidden Christ, shared stories of her childhood in old Florida, and instilled Liz with a sense of pride and love of Florida history.
After graduating from Desoto County High School in 2003, Liz followed in her parents’ footsteps and attended the University of Florida (Go Gators!) where she received bachelor’s degrees in journalism and anthropology. During her time in Gainesville, she completed a collections management internship at the Florida Museum of Natural History and fell in love with the idea of working in museums.
In 2008, Liz moved to Denver, CO and attended the University of Denver to pursue a master’s degree in anthropology and museum studies. During this time, she volunteered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, completed internships at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, CO and the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Hastings, NE, and was hired for a contract position at History Colorado in Denver. A highlight of her time in Colorado was living in the Four Corners region for a summer internship and getting to hike and explore Mesa Verde National Park every weekend!
Although she enjoyed her time exploring the West, she missed her home state of Florida and began searching for a way to return home. As luck would have it, she saw the job opening at the Osceola County Historical Society and jumped at the opportunity! During her first visit to the Pioneer Village, she couldn’t help but feel a connection to the historic structures, particularly the Lanier “Cracker” house, which reminded her of the home her grandmother was raised in back in Arcadia.
When Liz was hired, OCHS only had one location – the Pioneer Village. This was all about to change! She hit the ground running in her new position in preparation for the opening of the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum in November 2012. She got to witness the transformation of the building from construction site to breathtaking new museum. It was a thrilling start, but it was only the beginning.
The expansion of OCHS did not stop there – Liz also had the opportunity to join the expansion project for the new Pioneer Village and oversaw the preparation of the historic structures for their move to the new location. This included preparing the Cadman Family home for its move from Narcoossee to Shingle Creek Regional Park, and furnishing the buildings – still a work in progress! It was an incredibly busy year for Liz, but the ultimate reward was witnessing the new Pioneer Village come to life during the Grand Opening at Pioneer Day 2014.
Although both of these projects were absolutely highlights for Liz as Curator of OCHS, her favorite part of the job is developing the temporary exhibits at the Welcome Center. She is a one-woman exhibition team, developing, writing, designing, fabricating, and installing a new exhibit every three-to-four months. Her favorite exhibits from the past include “A Land Remembered,” “A Stitch in Time: a History of Quilting in America,” and “The Florida Project: How Walt Disney Transformed Osceola County.”
In her free time, Liz enjoys cooking, traveling, and visiting the local theme parks. She is a self-proclaimed Run Disney fanatic, and has participated in over 12 Disney races, including completing her first Half Marathon in January 2015.
She also loves exploring all of the natural beauty Florida has to offer, including annual summer trips to Englewood Beach, hiking at Myakka State Park, tubing at Itchetucknee Springs, or just admiring the beauty of Shingle Creek.