Gretchen Baker is vice president of exhibitions at the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. Prior to the NHMLA, she worked at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where she was the deputy director of exhibitions. Before taking part in a Zócalo/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County panel discussion, “Is the Digital Age Making Museums Obsolete?, she spoke to Zócalo in the green room about her biggest pet peeve, her most memorable field trip, and her favorite plant.
What’s the last book you read?
What is your favorite place to eat in L.A.?
What’s the biggest misconception people have about dinosaurs?
That they’re extinct.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Oh my gosh, my biggest pet peeve. Sand on my feet in the house. Which I probably have to get used to now that I live in L.A.
What’s your favorite plant?
What was the first museum you ever visited?
The small geological museum at the state university (Western Illinois University) in my hometown. It probably had about two rooms. This is about five hours southwest of Chicago, so it’s a small, kind of traditional, geologic display of small minerals.
What city is that in?
What museum, other than your own, do you most admire?
The Science Museum of Minnesota.
If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?
What field trip from your youth do you remember best?
Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, Missouri. And there were some caves that you walk through near Hannibal, Missouri. I remember the stalactites and stalagmites—they were terrifying.
What do you miss about Chicago?
It sounds totally bizarre, but I actually miss the winter. A little bit.
If you didn’t live in Los Angeles, where would you be?
Taos, New Mexico.
If we went and turned on your TV at home, what channel would most likely be on?
A kid’s channel. Masha, probably, would be last played.
How often do you swim in the Pacific Ocean?
What social media network do you spend the most time on?
What do butterflies and spiders have in common?
I should know the answer to this question. They are both invertebrates. If you need me to go deeper than that, that might be hard. Both of them inhabit a pavilion at the National History Museum throughout the year.