She is fascinated by abandoned places. Perhaps an old shipwreck and the lure of hidden treasures, a deserted farmhouse begging for a photograph or an ancient castle with secrets whispering through the walls.
These are the things that Kiki Lathrop, the new director of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, brings with her.
Her interest in history and cultures led her to a degree in anthropology with a focus on archeology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and a Masters in museum studies from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Lathrop grew up in the maritime world, living on a sailboat with her two siblings and parents for 11 years. When she was 6, her parents purchased a sailboat that they referred to as a huntalina.
“It was half hunter sailboat from the deck down, and half Catalina rigging from the deck up. We named our little boat Cocoknots,” and the family took the experience of living on a boat literally one day at a time.
She says they first spent one night on it, and her parents asked how the kids liked it. One night turned into two, which turned into a week, then a month, and eventually 5 years before they purchased a new boat that would become a more permanent residence.
“Homeschooling on the seas included a lot of reading, traveling and hands-on life experiences,” Lathrop says. “Boat lifestyle is very flexible and lends itself to temporary work from one marina to the next,” she says.
The family became known as the Snack Pack to the sailing community around Florida and the Bahamas and the kids were called the Cheese Kids, as they were named for types of cheeses – Brie, Colby and Kiki—a French cheese like Muenster.
“Yes, my family has a great sense of humor and we had a lot of fun together.”
Lathrop says her favorite place to sail was in Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas in the northern island chain off the Abacos.
“There was this abandoned Disney resort,” she says, “like a ghost town. We got to explore all of this skeleton resort and it was just so fascinating.”
She says another favorite place to explore was the Dunluce Castle in Ireland.
This was the castle that inspired C.S. Lewis to write “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Another favorite place was an old farmhouse in Australia that she happened upon.
“I was fascinated by all the vines that were growing in and around the door and window frames all through the house,” she says. “Oh, if only those walls could talk!”
She spent time photographing the old house and after posting photos online, she was contacted by a friend who told her the house belonged to her grandfather.
“What a small world it is. I’m always reminded of that in my travels.”
Lathrop moved to Buena Vista in 2006, where she decided to attend Buena Vista High School before attending college.
“I jumped right into everything,” she says. “I’m not one to sit still.”
She participated as senior class president, Student Council, Science Olympiad, National Honor Society, Interact Club and in soccer. “It was a really fun experience for me,” she says.
Right after graduating from BVHS, Lathrop enrolled in the astrophysics program at CU Boulder.
“I was able to get a job right away with the planetarium there,” she says. “My boss called me an octopus, because I did whatever job he had for me. I enjoyed that job for 5 years, but in my second year of college I switched to the anthropology focus.”
In 2013, Lathrop visited Australia on a working-holiday visa. During that time she worked for 3 months on a horse breeding farm in the Australian outback of Queensland, then 3 months in a bar, followed by 3 months in a hostel. During this time, she also published her photographs of children and surfing in a small magazine.
Lathrop spent 2014 in Japan teaching English in an after-school program outside of Tokyo.
“I loved my time there,” she says. “I learned if I had my go-to five vocabulary phrases, I could get around. ‘Please, thank you, you are welcome, do you know, and where is?’ all go a long way in travel.”
Lathrop earned her Master’s in museum studies in Brisbane, Australia in 2015-16.
“I’ve known since I was 6 years old I wanted to grow up and work in a museum,” she says. “I have also loved learning about real life shipwrecks and earned a certification in maritime archeology.”
During her year Brisbane, she also was an executive member of sailing and participated in the Acting and Recreational Theater Society.
“Having come from a very artistic family, I have incorporated the arts into my life in acting, singing, dancing, writing and photography.”
Lathrop joined the local improv group The Claim Jumpers and performed in “High Jinx on the Low Seas.”
She feels a kindred spirit with both the mountains and water. She became scuba certified 8 years ago and envisions someday being a part of a maritime archeological dig. She is also working on a certification for GIS (Geological Information Systems) and hopes to use her skills for maps and records research in her position at the museum.
A long-term goal is to achieve her PHD in archeology before the age 40. Her favorite aspect of Buena Vista is the awe-inspiring views. “No matter where you are, the views are beautiful and ever-changing.”