Archetypes: Dr. Frances Levine, Ph. D.
Interview by Krystin Arneson
A conversation with Fran Levine, president of the Missouri History Museum. She joined the museum in April 2014, after serving for 12 years as the director of the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors, where she led the institution’s rebirth and charted a new path for its growth. With her anthropology education from University of Colorado, Boulder, and Southern Methodist University, Levine moved to St. Louis to see more of the US and live in a bigger city, as well as to explore her academic passion for ethnohistory, the study of history through the cultures and voices of those participating in it.
What is your current frame of mind? Peaceful. Content.
When and where are you happiest? Taking a walk.
What is your favorite smell? Clothes from a clothesline.
What is one word that describes you? High-energy.
What did you eat for breakfast today? I made a lovely berry and banana smoothie and some toast.
What words or phrases do you overuse? I use the words “grateful” and “gratitude” a lot, but I don’t think I overuse them.
What is your most marked characteristic? Determination.
What is your greatest weakness? Dark chocolate.
What trait do you most admire in others? Good listening.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? History, truly.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would be taller.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My two children and my relationship with them.
Which living person do you most admire? This pope. I really like the pope. Not only because we have the same name, but because he’s so forward-thinking.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I’m writing about one right now who I’m very focused on—Doña Teresa Aguilera y Roche.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it be? A rose garden.
What is your greatest extravagance? Travel.
What is your greatest fear? The times we live in.
On what occasion do you lie? I don’t lie as much as I say, “Hmmm…”
Who are your favorite writers? Mark Twain, Alice Munro, Leo Tolstoy…I love Leo Tolstoy.
What is your favorite hobby? Hiking and photography.
Where would you most like to live? I’m so happy in so many places. I love Mexico, New Mexico, northern Arkansas, southern Missouri. I’m really happy where I am right now.
Who are your heroes in real life? That’s a hard one for me. Maybe I’m not sure what a hero is.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? Don Juan Bautista de Anza, governor of New Mexico in the 1780s. He negotiated a treaty between the Comanches and Spain. I’d like to know what he was thinking about.
What’s something interesting that you just learned? I just learned so much about Bosnia. I just went with a small group of people from St. Louis.
What is one thing you wish would happen? That we learn and are profoundly changed as people and as a community by the events of the last several months here in St. Louis.
What is something you still want to learn? I want to learn to sail. I love being on a sailboat, but I don’t know how to sail. Also, patience.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? Travel more.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? “It’s gonna be okay.”
Photo credit: Wesley Law