October 4, 2019 – Museums are increasingly turning to specialist recruiters to help fill critical, senior-level leadership roles. And as these top positions become more sophisticated and complex, the hunt is on for top-flight talent to fill these critically important roles. With that, search fees across the space are rising substantially.
Recently, Museum Search & Reference was selected by the Museum of Texas Tech University to lead its search for a new executive director. Senior search consultant Connie Rosemont is heading the assignment.
The position presents an opportunity to work with one of the largest university museum collections in the U.S., encompassing science, social science, history and visual art. This leader will have the opportunity to develop and implement a 21st-century museum vision at a 90-year-old West Texas cultural destination serving Texas Tech University, the region, state and international research communities.
The executive director has overall charge of the museum’s budget, finances, personnel and operations, and reports to the provost through the senior vice provost. With a new $12 million museum addition ready to break ground in 2020, the new executive director will help oversee construction, bring in new operating and capital funds, and develop a long-term strategic financial plan to strengthen endowment and amplify staff resources in the coming years.
Seeking an Inspiring Leader
The Museum of Texas Tech University Museum wants an inspiring leader with a track record of building resources and integrating diverse operations to serve broad constituencies and leverage long-term assets. “The next director of the museum will be a strategic thinker and a pragmatic manager with keen intellectual curiosity,” Museum Search & Reference said. “They will have the vision and skill-set to plan, negotiate, coordinate and grow museum support and operations to even better serve the university, global research communities and museum visitors.”
The museum is looking for an articulate and dynamic manager with proven success in developing cooperative and effective relationships with stakeholders, donors and staff. Candidates must have at least five years of experience as a museum director or at a senior management level at a large museum or equivalent cultural institution.
Museum Search & Reference has placed dozens of museum directors as well as chief curators, deputy directors, directors of education and other museum leadership, trained and experienced in content-specific areas. The firm has helped clients hire curators of American art, Asian art, contemporary art, European art, Islamic art, and South Asian art, as well as museum education and engagement specialists. Museum Search & Reference works nationally and internationally from its office in the Boston area, with search consultants also located in Washington, D.C., Maine and New York State.
Marilyn Hoffman, who leads Museum Search & Reference, has been placing professionals at museums and non-profits since 2004. Her extensive national networks have grown rapidly, along with her firm. Ms. Hoffman enjoyed a 25-year museum career, capped by 18 years as a museum director.
Ms. Rosemont joined the firm in 2014 as a consultant for museum searches, and has recruited for both director and curator searches. Previously, she was co-founder and executive director of an independent movie theater and has significant business start-up and audience engagement experience.
Top Traits for Museum Leaders
“Museums, of course, have changed dramatically in the last century, particularly in the area of technology,” said Philippe de Montebello, the longest-serving director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the third longest-serving director of any major art museum in the world at the time of his retirement in 2008. “But the traits and skills of museum leaders have remained essentially unchanged.”
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“Despite technology playing a large and expanding role within museums today, leaders for these organizations generally need to incorporate the same skill-sets they always have,” he said.
“These individuals must be the voice of the museum and that makes it essential to have an inspired leader in place. And these leaders require, now more than ever, top-notch fundraising skills,” he said. “They must develop strong relationships with donors and truly serve as the face of the institution.”
That is something Mr. de Montebello knows well. He served as both the voice and face of the Met as its director for 31 years. He came to the organization in 1963 as a curator in the department of European paintings and was named director in 1977. His legendary stewardship took off from there.
“One thing I’ll say about museum leaders of tomorrow,” said Mr. de Montebello, “is that like the great museum leaders of the past they must believe in not merely paying lip service to the primacy of art, they must be passionate and convincing about their museum’s mission.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media