Curator of Estrella Warbirds Museum

Estrella Warbirds Museum is extremely pleased to have Jill Thayer as our Museum Curator. Jill brings her experience, education, and passion to the curatorial position at Estrella Warbird Museum. She is a native of Sacramento, an over 40-year resident of Bakersfield, and a new resident to the Central Coast.

Jill Thayer, PhD

Jill Thayer, PhD, Museum Curator at Estrella Warbirds Museum
Jill Thayer, PhD, Museum Curator  at Estrella Warbirds Museum
Jill Thayer, PhD, Museum Curator  at Estrella Warbirds Museum

In 2011, Jill received her doctorate at Claremont Graduate University in Cultural Studies/Museum Studies in areas of exhibition theory, art history, design theory, and visual culture, which included a transdisciplinary study in global strategy and trade through Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at St. Peter’s College, Oxford University, UK. She holds a Masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in gallery practicum, arts management, and MBA marketing management. In Fall 2012, Jill curated "In Their Own Words: Oral Histories of CGU Art," an exhibition featuring Professors Emeritus of Claremont Graduate University School of Arts and Humanities in two campus galleries. The 16-month postdoctoral project produced audio and narrative transcripts with documentation from the exhibition included in the collection of Archives of American Art at The Smithsonian Institution.

Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Jill owned a design and marketing firm for 25 years specializing in corporate identity, branding, and marketing strategy in print and web for small business and global companies. As a gallerist of 15 years, she curated regional and international multi-cultural artists through selected exhibitions. As an educator, Dr. Thayer lectures and develops curricula for colleges locally and nationally, and is a contributing writer for publications in Los Angeles and Miami.

Her academic and professional experience will translate to her role as curator in preserving and honoring military aviation history. Jill adds, “I am privileged to be a part of Estrella Warbird Museum to preserve and perpetuate the legacy of those who have contributed to its success.”

Her father William G. Thayer served in the U.S. Army as Sergeant of Transportation in the Korean War, and her great uncles were WWII pilots––Laurence “Bud” Schillig Thayer, a Flight Officer in the U.S. Army Air Forces; and Alan Austin Thayer, a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U.S. Navy. In 1944, Bud Thayer joined the Army Air corps flying C-47 transports in the China-India-Burma theater known as "The Hump." Alan Thayer flew an SB-2-C, a Hellcat dive bomber off the USS Hornet. After flying 22 missions, he was awarded three Air medals and two Distinguished Crosses.

Jill’s grandfather, Jean Shillig Thayer was a Corporal in Company D of the 145th Machine Gun Battalion during WWI. The 145th was part of the 40th Division made up from the California, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona National Guard. Their nickname was the “Sunshine Division.” The 145th Machine Gun BN under the 80th Brigade was the 1st Squadron of the California Cavalry. During WWI the 40th Division provided replacements for other divisions that suffered horrendous casualties caused by powerful German drives, and to fill ranks in preparation for the allied Meuse-Argonne Offensive (also known as Battles of the Meuse-Argonne and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign) that began on September 26, 1918. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was a major part of the final Allied Offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was one of the attacks that brought an end to the War and was fought from September 26 – November 11, 1918, when the Armistice was signed.

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