Rebecca West first came to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in 1994 as an intern.
Now she has the chance to lead an organization she’s devoted much of her life to.
Monday, the Center announced her as the new executive director, replacing Peter Seibert who resigned earlier in the year.
“I felt I was most definitely up to the challenge,” she said. “I’m very invested in Cody and the Center, and I want to take us into the future. I’m quite attached to the community and the institution, I’ve really grown with it.”
West recently served as the Collier-Read Director of Curatorial, Education and Museum Services Division. She was also Curator of the Plains Indian Museum and department head of the Buffalo Bill Museum.
“It’s a great opportunity to promote one of our own,” board chairman Bill Shiebler said. “Her long-term experience with the Center, her deep educational background, her experience on the Management Team and her excellent reputation among her peers are all tremendous positives that make her a great fit to lead the Center.”
West began her career with the Center as an intern working as an associate researcher. She has since been promoted several times and has served in a wide range of roles across the Center.
“The past year has been a challenging one for museums around the world, and the Center of the West is no exception,” West said. “I have been fortunate to learn and mature under some of the best and brightest people who have worked here. I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working with our tremendous staff to address not only our current challenges, but also some wonderful opportunities for the Center and the community.”
West said it helps she has worked for the last few years on strategic planning for the museum, something she will continue with.
First, she said the goal is to continue shepherding the museum through the waning days of the pandemic.
“The first big challenge is to bring stability to the staff and the Center, balance that out with new opportunities, make sure we are advocates, give access to all of our content,” she said. “One of my larger goals is to stay connected, reconnect communities with the center.”
After focusing on connecting with Native Americans, she wants to broaden that to connect with more underrepresented groups going forward.
More than anything, she wants to move the museum into the future and connect with the community. And she’ll maintain her empathy for the staff she’s long been a part of.
“I remember very clearly the first minutes I walked in as an intern, I was supposed to be here six months,” she said. “I understand the importance of this really strong staff, they need a leader they can count on to lead them through these challenges and into a better future.
“I understand the challenge the Center faces. Knowing the staff so well, I understand what it means to be a part of the Center.”
West pursues his interests include skiing, running, fly fishing and a professional involvement in fostering strong relationships with Native communities, as well as working for broad access to collections, and advocacy for the arts through Center programs and outreach.
West holds a bachelors in art history from Dartmouth College, and a Masters of Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma with a focus on the culturally based symbolic use of color by contemporary Indian artists.
West and her husband Chuck Hulbert are both longtime Cody residents. Their son Charlie is a freshman at Cody High School, and their daughter Sara is graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in resource conservation.
West is the first female Center director since director and curator Mary Jester Allen, who helped found the museum and served as the first director of what was then the Buffalo Bill Museum, 1927-1958.