Jamestown Yorktown Foundation

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Williamsburg, Virginia

Application Deadline: Closed

The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation (JYF) seeks an experienced, forward-looking leader to help guide the curatorial departments at both of its accredited museums: Jamestown Settlement and the newly opened American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. This important role will help guide the direction of the Foundation in the development and growth of its collection, contribute to the expansion of its educational mission, and deliver its program of special exhibitions. The Director of Curatorial Services (DCS) will lead the department’s initiatives to enhance inclusivity and share the stories of diverse peoples with ever-broader audiences; bring scholarly expertise to its public interpretation, and grow the Foundation’s reputation in Early American History.


JYF is a rigorous and rewarding place to work, and this job provides the opportunity to join a major museum with a significant budget and big plans for the future. The DCS will help open a new chapter at the Jamestown Settlement, including providing curatorial input into a $9-million-dollar refresh of its main gallery, and will help steer an ambitious special-exhibition program. At the other end of the Historic Triangle, the DCS will continue the momentum of the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown with a continued emphasis on a significant series of special exhibitions leading up to the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.

With a generous budget for major acquisitions and an ambitious and supportive board, the DCS will supervise a 7-person team within an annual department operating budget of $500,000 (including salaries) and a new-acquisition budget of $900,000.

JYF will mark several important milestones with commemorations, special exhibitions and events that will attract wide attention and enhance attendance. 

  • 2019: 400th anniversary of the meeting of the first representative legislative body in America.

  • 2019: 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in British America.

  • 2019-2020: 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of single women at Jamestown, and the observance of a Thanksgiving service at Berkeley Plantation on the nearby James River.

  • 2026: 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

  • 2031: 250th anniversary of the Surrender at Yorktown.

This is an opportunity to be a change agent, to integrate innovative approaches into a historical setting, and to develop the Foundation’s reach.  It is an opportunity to work at an excellent, forward-facing, educational museum with a visitor focus, a museum that serves a large and diverse public – a statewide, national and international audience.  The DCS will also live and work in Williamsburg, Virginia, a desirable location famous for history.

This job suits a candidate who is forward-looking, innovative, knowledgeable about current trends in history and its relationship to museums, and willing to advocate for making JYF’s exhibitions and activities engaging and relevant to younger and more diverse audiences.  The DCS will have scholarly expertise in 17th - and 18th-c. American history with a particular interest in the many cultures that make up the United States.  The successful applicant also will be a strategic and innovative thinker with strong museum credentials and experience managing staff in a complex working environment. A senior curator, department head, or division manager at an innovative history museum or site could be a good fit for the position.


The scope of the DCS job is broad.  The DCS oversees the curators in the development and installation of all permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as the registrar’s department in the care and management of the collections; provides expertise for the outdoor living-history areas including dwelling construction; and recommends acquisitions to an engaged board of Trustees.  The DCS will oversee the planning, development, production and installation of exhibitions, working with JYF teams to provide excellent, relevant, and educational museums that appeal to a diverse audience. 

  • Oversee collection management and the registrar’s office, encompassing research, care, conservation, loans, and refinement of the collection.

  • Identify and recommend collection acquisitions that enhance current and upcoming exhibitions and interpretive programs.

  • Represent the organization to the external audience including media, the board, and other institutions.

  • Organize and schedule departmental staff working on both major permanent installations and changing exhibitions to maximize use of talent and efficiently meet JYF departments’ needs, schedules, and deadlines for multiple complex projects.

  • Provide content advice and scholarly review for exhibition and project topics and themes, interpretations, labels, and publications, using academic knowledge and expertise in the history-museum field to ensure the accuracy and cultural sensitivity of JYF presentations to its audiences.

  • With support from HR officers, supervise professional staff members in the department. Encourage and provide professional development, and handle personnel issues.

  • With support from financial and administrative officers, develop and manage annual department budgets and project budgets.

  • Provide expertise and support as needed for JYF to meet its mission and goals.


The candidate must bring content expertise and professional credentials, while also being an experienced manager of people and resources and an advocate for engaging new audiences through new media, methods and techniques. 

History and Academic Expertise and Abilities

  • The credentials and stature to engender respect from JYF’s curators, administration and board members as well as from outside colleagues and scholars, and to augment the academic reputation of JYF.

    • PhD or the equivalent in related field preferred. MA required.

    • Strong general knowledge and understanding of 17th- and 18th-century American history, plus up-to-date expertise in JYF’s subject matter: especially the Jamestown Settlement era and the American Revolution and its aftermath, with a focus on Virginia, as well as national subjects from these periods.

    • Particularly important, to balance existing staff expertise, is a working understanding of African cultural issues in early America, Virginia Indian history and the period of contact with settlers, and issues of cultural sensitivity in the field of historical interpretation today.

    • The ability to provide general overall academic oversight, to ensure accuracy and currency of exhibitions and interpretations, and to recognize when outside expertise is required.

    • Ability to enhance the international and academic profile of JYF on line.

  • Track record of using current and innovative approaches and methods to make history more accessible to a variety of audiences, while at the same time understanding that change may need to happen gradually and incrementally.

    • Knowledgeable about current approaches to history (beyond the “great man” methodology, for example) and eager to incorporate women’s and minority-groups’ stories.

    • A social, cultural, or public historian who uses objects to tell stories rather than to teach connoisseurship or material culture.

    • Strong network of professional contacts, both within and outside the field of museums.

    • Interest in, openness to and potentially, experience in using varied approaches to interpreting history, such as new media, theater, music and other techniques.

Management and Leadership Skills 

  • Excellent project manager, who is accountable to other departments for meeting institutional needs.

    • A strategic thinker; can look ahead, plan and manage multiple projects.

    • Experience, skills, and pro-activeness to allocate staff resources effectively to meet schedules and deadlines for multiple complex institution-wide projects.

    • Strong organizational skills.

  • Record of accomplishment in managing, motivating, and collaborating with a variety of staff members.

    • Experience managing at least four professionals, and capable of overseeing several major curatorial projects simultaneously.

    • Able to see the big picture and to allocate staff talent and time to achieve departmental and museum goals.

    • Able to delegate appropriately and to follow up without micromanaging.

    • Collaborative; with experience collaborating with educators and interpreters, as well as curators. Understands managing people with different talents, personalities, and work styles.

  • Strong communication skills

    • Enthusiasm and passion for history that will inspire staff and visitors.

    • Communicates well across departments and up and down the organizational structure.

    • Able to advocate for the department and staff members to the JYF administration.

    • Presents professionally to varied audiences, from the public to board members. Ability to present on camera about history is preferred.

  • Service-oriented. A desire to mentor staff, assist other departments, and provide a positive experience for visitors.

    • Can work successfully in a large state or government-run museum, historic site, or agency. Knowledge of how such organizations operate, and ability to manage bureaucratic requirements is a plus.

    • A strategic eye for expanding staff through post-doctoral fellows, interns, or consultant experts would be a plus.

Museum and Curatorial Experience 

  • Minimum of five years’ experience as a curatorial administrator or senior curator managing people and major projects at a significant museum or related organization.

    • Experience at two or more history museums or historic sites is a plus.

    • Experience at a living-history museum or statewide history museum preferred.

    • Experience at a large organization is a plus, and if at a smaller organization, experience managing multiple departments.

  • Can translate history to audiences in an engaging way.

    • Brings fresh, current, relevant ideas. Can be a change agent to increase and expand visitation and enrich learning.

    • Can tell stories that visitors can connect with, not just present objects.

    • Has a record of accomplishment of, or brings ideas for making history relevant and engaging to wide and new audiences.

  • Strong background in exhibitions and collections management.

    • Familiar with and can oversee staff on the exhibition-development process for major exhibitions, collection care, and the loan and acquisition processes.

    • Has overseen, exhibited, and interpreted a significant collection.

    • Sufficient experience to jump into ongoing major exhibition projects; can get up to speed quickly and carry the projects forward.

    • Understands museum professional standards; able to maintain accreditation and ensure proper care and display of collections and loans.

  • Familiarity with current trends, issues, and best practices in the field, and will be an advocate for them in the museum and the community.

    • Knowledgeable about current issues in history museums, and desires to keep current by attending national or international conferences.

    • A leader active in the field, who could speak at AAM, AASLH, ALHFAM and other conferences or would publish for the profession.

  • Experienced in the basics of fundraising.

    • Ability to present persuasively on one’s projects at the board and state level.

    • Although fundraising is not a major responsibility, a sociable personality and interest in fundraising and donor cultivation are assets.

    • Experience preparing grant proposals is desirable.


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Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, both operated by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, are nationally renowned, AAM-accredited living-history museums.  Both museums tell national stories that incorporate new historical research and interpretation, including multicultural inclusion in America’s early history (visit: https://www.historyisfun.org).  These two prominent museums explore the story of America’s beginnings, from the founding of America’s first permanent English colony in 1607 to the Revolution and the establishment of a new nation almost two centuries later.  They both feature engaging indoor exhibition galleries and activity-filled outdoor living-history areas focused on education about life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, through comprehensive, immersive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history, offers a truly national perspective, conveying a sense of the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and the richness and complexity of the country’s Revolutionary heritage.  The planned renovation of the galleries at Jamestown Settlement will have an equally exciting impact and will take the Settlement in new interpretive directions.

The Foundation is the largest provider of structured museum-education programming in Virginia.  The museums provide on-site visits, educational outreach programs, teacher training, and curriculum materials to schools throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.  In 2017-18, the Foundation’s museums served 202,136 students on site and 87,515 with educational outreach programs in 109 of the 132 school districts in Virginia.  Paid visitation to both museums has ranged from 610,844 in 2017 to more than a million during the Jamestown 400 anniversary year in 2007.  Visitors are both domestic and international.

Staff at the museums continually update the exhibitions and acquire artifacts to exhibit storylines.  New video productions are created for both the exhibit theaters and the Historyisfun.org website.  The Museum at Yorktown features a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory 4-D theater, which is fully programmed. 

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JYF is an educational agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia that also raises funding through its private affiliate Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc. for programs, acquisitions, and endowments, and it recently completed a $17-million campaign for the new Yorktown museum.  Executive Director Philip Emerson has provided visionary leadership since 1991.  An ever-advancing and healthy institution, the Foundation has a $20.5-million operating budget and employs about 400 full- and part-time staff, augmented by an active volunteer group of around 1,500 people.  

JYF will offer the Director of Curatorial Services competitive compensation and a full state benefits package.  The position’s title and compensation are dependent on experience. 


Williamsburg, the principal city in “America’s Historic Triangle” of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, offers exceptional educational, recreational and cultural amenities and a temperate climate.  It is home to Colonial Williamsburg, the College of William and Mary, many historic sites, streets, gardens, and churches, as well as good public schools, nearby theme parks, theaters, restaurants, shops, and antique stores.  Outdoor recreation is a regional draw with beaches, state parks, road races, bike trails, sailing, kayaking, birding, and golf. 

Centrally located in the Mid-Atlantic region, Williamsburg is 3½ hours from Washington and Baltimore and an hour from Richmond.  It is easily accessible via major highways and three airports.  The Hampton Roads region, the second-largest metropolitan area in Virginia and one of the more popular tourist destinations in the world, attracts over six million people annually and features the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk and The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.  Busch Gardens and Water Country USA are each only 3 miles from Williamsburg. 

The region’s diverse economy is one of the nation’s strongest, and Williamsburg is a rapidly growing population center for young professionals, families, and retirees.  Visit www.visitwilliamsburg.com  and https://www.virginia.org/regions/HamptonRoads/.


Apply in confidence.  Nominations, email inquiries, and informal résumés may be submitted to retained search consultant Marilyn Hoffman, Museum Search & Reference, searchandref@museum-search.com.  See full job announcement at: www.museum-search.com

For this search, Gail Nessell Colglazier, who brings experience as a search consultant and former history-museum director, will assist our firm with recruiting and screening candidates.

To formally apply, all candidates must submit a completed application on-line, including all requested information, at: https://virginiajobs.peopleadmin.com.  Applicants should upload a résumé and a cover letter that includes a list of 3 references and a salary requirement.  Electronic applications should be received by 11:59 PM on September 17, 2018.  EEO/AA/ADA.