When Jan Shupert-Arick was growing up, the road trips her family took in their Studebaker station wagon gave her a taste for the adventure of discovering small-town America.
And an elementary schoolteacher who made her the class librarian and encouraged her to read inspired her passion for history.
Shupert-Arick brings both those qualities, along with her broad experience working at museums, to her new position as executive director of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society. She applied for the vacant position after her husband was transferred to this area and the couple moved to Naperville.
"This is a wonderful community with a rich history," said the Indiana native who started with the Glen Ellyn Historical Society in early May. "What we need to do as an institution is enhance the telling of it, the sharing of it."
Shupert-Arick, who spent more than a dozen years in museum education and program development with the Northern Indiana Center for History in South Bend and the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind., finds herself in a different position in Glen Ellyn. She oversees Stacy's Tavern Museum, the Glen Ellyn History Center and the Glen Ellyn History Park as a staff of one, except for a paid manager and buyer for the Stacy's Corners Store.
"I'm wearing many hats," she said. "There's never a dull moment."
The Glen Ellyn Historical Society has had previous executive directors, but it is largely a volunteer group with about 100 active members, Shupert-Arick said. The volunteers have done everything from researching homes for the society's historical plaque program to publishing brochures and fundraising.
"The volunteers here have done so much work I can't speak enough about it," she said.
But working with volunteers can be like herding cats, observed Dan Anderson, the historical society's vice president and part of the task force that chose Shupert-Arick from among 35 applicants.
"The biggest thing that appealed to us about Jan's background was her experience in museum management," he said. "She's going to help us a lot with properly archiving our collection."
Shupert-Arick also will help increase programming, membership growth and fundraising, all areas in which she has experience, Anderson said.
"She's going to help with educating the community and inspiring the community," he said.
Shupert-Arick said she wants to see the historical society's properties located at Glen Ellyn's north entrance become a source of economic development for the community.
"I would like to see Stacy's Tavern and the History Center become a tourist destination," she said.
The plans will include a revised vision for the Glen Ellyn History Park. The society wasn't able to obtain all the properties it wanted to add to the History Center, Stacy's Tavern Museum and the Doug & Ruthann Ward Plaza that are already there at Geneva Road and North Main Street, Shupert-Arick said.
An advanced master gardener, she also wants to add to the property's landscaping and see a vegetable garden planted at Stacy's Tavern.
On the program front, the former elementary and middle schoolteacher, mother and grandmother would like to involve more young people in the historical society. She is pleased a high school volunteer is joining and would like to work with schools to help enhance their curriculum.
The society has planned a ragtime ball for next April and programs that will include opportunities for kids to learn ragtime music, dance workshops to teach steps from the era, and a gala at the Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn.
The historical society also is working with the Glen Ellyn Park District to obtain stories, photos and artifacts about the boathouse on Lake Ellyn that will mark its 75th anniversary in a few years. Another project is to collect stories about Civil War soldiers buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Glen Ellyn to add to a regimental history.
A history play about Glen Ellyn is in the works for August 2013. In the more immediate future, the historical society will sponsor its annual Tavern Day from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at 800 N. Main St. Pioneer crafts and games, tours of Stacy's Tavern Museum, Civil War re-enactors, farm animals, a bake sale and mum sale are all part of the event.
Shupert-Arick said she wants to add to the historical society's already active group of volunteers with more people to work in the research center and archives, serve as docents at Stacy's Tavern Museum and clerks at Stacy's Corner Store, and work on buildings and grounds upkeep.
She also wants to encourage community members to donate relevant artifacts so the historical society can develop more exhibits.
"Many families have been here for generations," she said.
Shupert-Arick's own paternal ancestors were pioneers in northern Indiana in the 1830s. Her great-grandfather worked for the Elkhart Car Company in the 1930s, and both her grandfather and father worked for the Studebaker Corporation in South Bend.
But she didn't get her knowledge of America's roads just from her family's trips in their Studebaker. While working at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, which has since closed, Shupert-Arick was in charge of a section on Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental road.
She served as president of the National Lincoln Highway Association and Indiana Lincoln Highway Association, and wrote books on the Indiana stretches of the Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, published by Arcadia Press.
Shupert-Arick said Roosevelt Road served as the official connector between downtown Chicago and U.S. Highway 30, which includes much of what was the Lincoln Highway.
"I really didn't get away from the Lincoln Highway. It's right here on the south end of Glen Ellyn," she said.
Those interested in volunteering or sharing memorabilia with the Glen Ellyn Historical Society may contact Jan Shupert-Arick at (630)-469-1867, ext. 101, or firstname.lastname@example.org.