Connecticut River Museum

CTRM pic.jpg



Essex, CT

Application Deadline: Closed

The Connecticut River Museum (CRM) seeks an innovative, collaborative Executive Director to lead it further on the path of a newly expanded mission. The museum has broadened the scope and variety of its programs on the river’s history and culture to encompass river ecology. CRM is nearing completion of a capital campaign that has restored its wharf, created climate-controlled collections storage, and will soon provide a 5,000 square-foot, hands-on environmental discovery center.

It is an exciting moment for a new Executive Director. A museum in an attractive location, with potential for many new audiences, is broadening its scope and expanding its facilities. Its new leader will have the chance to raise CRM’s profile and dramatically increase its reach and impact. 


  • The incoming Executive Director will play a principal role in shaping the museum’s future.

  • There is great potential for growth in museum collections, programs, and audiences. It is a launching pad for opportunity.

  • CRM has a talented, generous, supportive board that will be a great asset to a skilled Executive Director.

  • CRM is located in an affluent area visited by many tourists.

  • There is room to grow the museum’s existing, strong base of private support and healthy earned income to increase stability and sustainability.

  • CRM can build on its recent success in making the museum more integral to community life.

  • Other entities in the region offer potentially valuable partnerships: a steam train that draws 200,000 riders annually; land trusts and the Nature Conservancy; nearby major universities; local historical societies and theaters.

  • There is rich potential to expand the geographical reach of programs, interpretation, collaboration, and audience development along the 410-mile length of the Connecticut River, and thus establish a strong presence regionally and in New England.



  • The new Executive Director will need to unite board members and staff behind a shared vision.

  • He/she will need to develop a plan for operating and sustaining the expanded facilities and mission.

  • It may be necessary to reorganize the staff for greater effectiveness in meeting future goals.

  • Special events are taking much staff time and energy. It will be timely to review all fundraising events in light of their effectiveness, use of resources, and relation to the mission.

  • There are some lingering notions from the past of the museum as an elitist, private club, and some fallout among community residents from a recent controversy over concerns about a construction project adjacent to the museum campus.



CRM was founded in 1974 by volunteers dedicated to river and maritime history to preserve Essex’s former steamship wharf, 1878 warehouse, and 1813 chandlery. In 2012, the museum purchased an adjacent historic property, the 1732 Samuel Lay House with a freestanding carriage barn on .8 acre. Today the AAM-accredited museum is the only one presenting the story of the Connecticut River. Over 24,000 people visit each year. They tour a permanent exhibit providing an overview of the river’s history on two floors of the warehouse. The third floor houses changing exhibitions exploring topics in art, history, and nature. For 25 years there has been an elaborate holiday model train show there that is very popular and is heavily attended over the Christmas/New Year holidays. CRM increases its reach by sending some of these exhibits to other venues. Nearly 5,000 school-age children experience field-trip activities serving state educational curricula, as well as summer day camps. Over 1,000 adults take cruises or paddle kayaks on the river from the museum, take eagle-sighting boat trips, enjoy nights in CRM’s historic tavern, or attend public talks and workshops. Community residents gather on the museum’s grounds for weekly concerts in summer and thematic special events throughout the warmer months. A small research library/archives facilitates scholarly studies. 

CRM’s collections document maritime history related to the Connecticut River: shipbuilding and boatbuilding, industries along the river, trade, transportation, recreation, fisheries, agriculture, and social history along the river. Within the collection are 2,357 objects and works of art, 3,006 photographs, 2,268 books, and 5,084 documents and other archival holdings. The museum’s site on the river and near the river-mouth’s estuary affords diverse subjects for nature programming. CRM’s long-term ambition is to expand its collections and outreach to the entire 410-mile length of the Connecticut River, providing documentation of and education on its role in the lives of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont residents. 

The CRM board consists of sixteen members from Essex and nearby communities, including a few with business ties to New York City. Among them are generous donors, people with valuable skills and professional expertise, and people deeply involved in the community and region. The board advises and assists the Executive Director, and joins staff and volunteers for occasional hands-on projects. CRM has a staff of 5 full-time and 11 part-time who enjoy working together and pitch in as a team to do whatever is needed. Volunteers and interns augment the staff, especially during busy summer season. 



The museum is in sound financial condition. The budget of a little over $1 million has been balanced the last four years. It relies on a solid mix of income sources with potential for further strengthening.  The museum enjoys the support of 1,050 member households. CRM’s board and the previous Executive Director exceeded the initial capital campaign goal of $5 million without the benefit of campaign counsel. The board has determined that an additional $1.3 million is needed to fulfill the final campaign objective, building and furnishing the discovery center in the carriage barn by the Samuel Lay House, and is confident of raising the money. 

In recent years CRM has expanded its reach to Connecticut towns upriver and to a broader demographic. This has been accomplished through outdoor activities, concerts, and food-and drink-related programs that draw younger adults. 

As the realization of its vision for facility expansion nears, CRM will begin work on a new strategic plan to take full advantage of its capability and recent success. The museum is poised for a new level of visibility and service to the region’s residents and visitors. 


The successful candidate will be a museum professional with broad interests and a record of accomplishment leading or in a senior management position with a community-based cultural or environmental organization, including effective fundraising. An outgoing relationship-builder, the new Executive Director will enjoy being the public face of the museum and will seek opportunities for partnerships with area arts, cultural, and environmental organizations and educational institutions. 


The Executive Director is charged with oversight and management of the museum, working collaboratively with professional staff and the board to ensure strategic goals and annual objectives are met. Early priorities will include:

  • Serve as a vital teammate with board members to ensure completion of the capital campaign, taking part in personal solicitation of individuals and businesses and developing proposals to granting entities as needed.

  • Initiate a new strategic planning based on sound data and an inclusive process.

  • Provide regular oversight and coordination between the museum and the construction manager while the discovery center is built, collaborating with board members who have construction expertise

  • Work with the Curator to complete and realize plans to bring the new collections storage facility into operation.

  • Collaborate with the Curator to develop a three-year exhibition plan, including refreshing the ten-year-old permanent exhibit.

  • Lead development of plans for interpretive components of the new discovery center and sustainable operation of the expanded museum.

  • Plan and manage the maintenance of the museum’s four historic structures in accordance with the standards of the Secretary of the Interior.

  • Lead or delegate creation and implementation of procedures to ensure waterfront safety.



  • A Master’s degree in museum studies focused on either history or environmental science; or a degree in public history, nonprofit management, or a related field; or the equivalent in education and experience. Thorough knowledge of museum standards and best practices.

  • At least five years successfully leading another nonprofit organization or a significant department within one.

  • Strong people skills. Enthusiasm for and a record of connecting with the community. Strong speaking and writing skills, and an effective ambassador.

  • Broad-mindedness, wide-ranging and interdisciplinary interests. Eager to fill gaps in her/his knowledge of the museum’s subject areas.

  • A track record of successful fundraising from individuals, businesses, and granting entities.

  • “Fire in the belly”: ambition and self-motivation.

  • Ability to manage multiple demands and execute efficiently.

  • Willing to get in the trenches and pitch in when needed but not micromanage.  Available to staff; a good listener.

  • Knowledge of museum standards. Experience with AAM accreditation is advantageous.

  • Financial acumen.

  • Experience with capital expansion desirable.

  • Maritime skills are advantageous.

  • Willingness to work irregular hours and some weekends.

Maritime theme in collection installation

Maritime theme in collection installation

View of Essex.jpg


Essex is a charming historic town on the Connecticut River six miles upriver from Long Island Sound. Three villages comprise the town: Essex, Ivoryton, and Centerbrook. The combined year-round population is just under 6,700. The town retains its scenic beauty and historic character, with many examples of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture. It is a safe place to live. Area public schools are first-rate. The region around Essex has extensive conservation land in addition to the river for outdoor enthusiasts. Long Island Sound beaches are fifteen minutes from the town center. 

Essex is located centrally to urban areas, universities, and cultural attractions. New York City and Boston are each only about two hours away by car, and Hartford or New Haven, forty minutes.  Transportation is readily available. Amtrak and Interstate 95 serve the area, and the Hartford and Providence regional airports are just over an hour’s drive away.  Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and Wesleyan University are all within 45-minute drives, and Connecticut College is 25 minutes away. There are many museums, art galleries, and theaters in the region. Spouses and partners will find many potential employers within an easy commute from Essex. 


Nominations welcome.  Apply in confidence: Email cover letter, résumé (Word documents preferred), salary requirement, and names of 3 references with contact information by March 4, 2019 to retained search firm: Scott Stevens, Senior Search Consultant, Museum Search & Reference/Marilyn Hoffman,  References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant. EOE.