The Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum (New Bedford, MA)

Job Summary

The New Bedford Whaling Museum (NBWM) in New Bedford, Massachusetts seeks a Chief Curator for its endowed position to oversee a unique and varied array of collections and exhibitions and to lead the Curatorial and Collections departments and the Library. The successful candidate will be able to articulate a vision and strategy for public engagement through a wide range of exhibitions and programs. A keeper of the region’s collective memory and leading cultural institution, the Museum preserves a communal story of the many who settled in and from this port and those that keep the light shining brightly. Boldly exploring regional narratives, the Museum weaves stories about global maritime history, fine art, whaling and whale ecology, industrial expansion and immigrant culture with collections in art, history, science and nature. The Crocker Chief Curator must demonstrate strength in one or more areas of the collection, but more importantly possess a drive, curiosity and desire to link objects together across disciplines and create compelling narratives through expansive concepts, interpretation and presentation of exhibitions.
As part of the Museum’s leadership team, the Chief Curator will be engaged in setting direction, planning, and execution of objectives. They will oversee a staff of 6, plus a cohort of volunteers and interns and must be able to deftly guide, represent and advocate for the curatorial, collections and library staff, have the vision to lay out a comprehensive, innovative approach to art and history-based exhibitions and be willing to work in a hands-on manner to see projects through to completion. The successful candidate will move easily from management to community engagement, to donor cultivation, and still be happy to roll up their sleeves to get the show open on time.

A beloved institution and leader in the region, the Whaling Museum is embracing a vibrant future focused on telling the complete stories of a diverse community. Important work is ahead and the staff is eager to welcome a visionary partner and leader. Candidates should have a commitment to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion and be able to contribute to efforts already underway among staff and board to create new narratives, probing art, history and science to bring light to contemporary social issues, whaling history, science, and conservation. The Museum is a part of a vibrant art, history and cultural community – the city and region are particularly diverse, with legacies of whaling leading to many paths of migration. The Chief Curator will be expected to embrace the opportunity to pursue strong scholarship and exhibition development to increase the Museum’s efforts to represent the community more fully and to participate and lead in inspiring and expanding audiences.
Internally, the Chief Curator should appreciate working across departments with a team of colleagues and be adept at building partnerships. They will also work closely with the Board of Trustees, and through the Collections and the Scholarship and Publications Committees. The successful candidate will have experience in donor cultivation and a track record of exciting and accessible exhibitions and publications, as well as demonstrate a strength in public engagement and programming.

To apply in confidence, email 1) a letter expressing interest in this particular position and giving brief examples of past related experience; 2) a résumé; 3) names of three references with contact information. Submit application by April 19, 2021 to retained search firm: Marilyn Hoffman or Lora Urbanelli, Museum Search & Reference, SearchandRef@museum-search.com.

Responsibilities & Duties

The Crocker Chief Curator will be inspired by the recent Strategic Plan to Welcome, Engage, Steward & Thrive and collaborate on refreshing the curatorial vision, tone, and pacing for the next 5 years, reshaping and redefining the Museum’s narrative with a fresh look at collections, installations, and interpretation through the lens of equity, justice, and marine conservation, and expanding access through traditional, and increasingly digital means. The NBWM Chief Curator will be expected to:

• Adhere to and be motivated by our organizational Values (as established by NBWM Staff in 2019): Collaborative  Creative  Inclusive  Passionate  Respectful.

• Create inspiring, relevant narratives linking art and history to contemporary life through exploration of NBWM’s rich and varied collections.

• Have the vision to lay out a comprehensive, bold and innovative approach to art, history, and science-based exhibitions, and work in a hands-on manner to execute that vision.

• Lead collaboratively within exhibition teams and with educators, programmers and designers and provide direction to develop exhibition content, interpretation, and related publications.

• Work closely with the Director of Philanthropy to fund initiatives, exhibitions and publications.

• Coordinate with Director of Education and team (including docents) to ensure that exhibitions are engaging, participatory, and accessible – and that they are partners in the development of learning tools and interpretation.

• Coordinate with the Director of Digital Engagement to envision interactive technology for exhibitions.

• Coordinate with the Director of Marketing and PR to envision and develop engaging public programs.

• Oversee the care, conservation, growth and storage needs of the collections.

• Be involved in attracting financial support for collections and projects, and comfortably interact with major donors.

• Think broadly and care deeply about the visitor experience.

• Participate in the training of hundreds of volunteers to ensure a broadening narrative, aimed at cultural diversity.

• Maintain and deepen already great collaborations with community organizations.

• Prepare and oversee annual budgets, and participate in decisions regarding capital improvements, acquisitions, and restricted funds.

• Coordinate Collections and Scholarship and Publications Committees, being responsible for recommendations of acquisitions, accessions, deaccessions and loans.

• Maintain professional affiliations in field-related and museum curatorial organizations, professional societies, and relevant committees.

• Be available for limited travel if needed. Evening and weekend attendance at events is expected.

Necessary Knowledge & Skills

Education & Experience Desired

• Master’s Degree or equivalent years of directly related experience required.
• Ten years of museum experience, 4-5 of which has been successfully managing staff, organizing departmental activities, and overseeing complex, time-sensitive exhibition projects.
• Strong knowledge in an Arts and Humanities field such as maritime painting, decorative arts, maritime history, photography, ethnographic collections or whaling history.
• A record of publications or catalogues is required.
• Must have experience and be comfortable engaging with the public and have persuasive communication skills both oral and written.
• Familiarity with the history and material culture of southeastern Massachusetts is an asset.

Desired Personal Characteristics


• Creative problem solver, curious about a broad array of topics.
• Clear, transparent communicator, creative writer and editor.
• Deep commitment to DEAI and the social purpose of museums as platforms for new knowledge, community engagement, lifelong education, and as a positive force in society.
• Self-starter with excellent interpersonal and relationship development skills.
• Organized and focused; detail oriented; a timely decision-maker.
• Strong team player and good listener with a high-level perspective.
• Collaborative and collegial leader; a respectful advocate for staff, supporting their growth.
• Good sense of design, exhibition aesthetics and image for each exhibition and gallery.

Salary (Exact Amount or Range): $95,000 – $110,000

Contact Name: Lora Urbanelli

Contact Email: Searchandref@museum-search.com

Website Link: https://museum-search.com/open-searches

Application Deadline: 04/19/2021