During the Dorcheat Museum’s Night at the Museum on May 8, Shelley Francis announced that she is stepping down as executive director, and Jessica Stewart Gorman will be taking her place.
Francis has been working at the Dorcheat Museum since 2007. After stepping down from the position of executive director, she will become vice president on the board of directors.
Gorman first came to Francis’ attention when she came in asking permission to work on cemetery headstones at the Minden Cemetery. This eventually led to her taking on a role at the Minden Cemetery Association and working as a volunteer at the museum. After some consideration, Gorman accepted Francis’ offer to start working at the Dorcheat Museum as her assistant.
“She knows more than I ever thought about knowing about Webster Parish history,” said Francis. “She’s the only person I know that I can sit and talk with about people who have been dead for 150 plus years. We also know where they’re buried, where they lived, and who their mama was.”
Gorman is a native of Minden, and she has been interested in genealogy since she was about 10 years old when she would look through a copy of her family history that had been put together by a relative.
“I was fascinated by the idea that I was related to all those people who lived so long ago,” said Gorman. “As a teenager, I became more interested when my dad was working on our Stewart genealogy. I started out like most people, wanting to just put together a family tree and find out who I’m related to.”
But the more she discovered, the more interested she became.
“The longer I researched, the more I developed an interest in who these people were and what their lives were like,” said Gorman.
During the COVID pandemic, Gorman took the opportunity to continue her studies in genealogy, completing the certificate program on American Genealogical Studies from the National Genealogy Society. She also completed a course in Forensic Genealogy from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Gorman was recently accepted as a member of the North Louisiana Historical Association.
Gorman is also the person who has been uploading all the museum’s events to their YouTube channel as well as keeping the social media posts updated. She has written one book, and is working on a second one about Webster Parish’s history. The first book is available for sale now for $25. The proceeds will go toward expanding the museum.
“We have an entire building next door that needs to get finished so that we can highlight each community and town in Webster Parish the way it should be,” said Francis.
The museum needs to raise at least $50,000 beyond their normal operating costs to complete this project. Their next big fundraiser will be a cake auction on September 11, with the theme being “Lights, Camera, Auction!” However, the museum will happily accept donations at any time.
The Dorcheat Museum is a hidden gem in Webster Parish. They are located at 116 Pearl Street, and they are open Tuesday through Friday 10 AM till 4 PM (closed for lunch 1 PM till 2 PM). They are also happy to open outside of their normal hours upon request.