Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

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MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT MUSEUM &

RESEARCH CENTER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Mashantucket, CT

Application Deadline: April 22, 2019


The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center (MPMRC) seeks a highly experienced, creative, culturally sensitive leader to refocus the museum and rebuild its operation to a lively and sustainable level.  Twenty-one years old, the museum features vivid permanent exhibitions in a stunning facility with ample space for temporary exhibits, diverse educational programs and special events, and earned-revenue generation. It has been in a period of retrenchment after a significant decline in the revenue that subsidizes its operation.  It is ready for an ambitious, entrepreneurial director to take advantage of its capability, and engage a large, diverse audience in matchless encounters with the present and past of the region’s original people. 

The MPMRC is a 308,000-square-foot facility and holds important and singular collections.  The museum has been a national model and, when it opened, was distinctive in mission, scale, and tribal governance.  The museum was founded and created by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Funding for its construction ($193.4 million) and operations, as well as for staff training, were proudly funded by the Tribal Nation.  Today, their prudent goal is to diversify the museum’s income, by both launching a full development effort to attract private funding and to continue and increase support from grants and rentals.  To this end, the Tribal Council has directed the formation, currently underway, of a private board, to which the new ED will report.  In sum, the museum is at a time of renewal, regeneration, and updating.  The MPMRC plays a vital role in interpreting and preserving the culture of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation for its own people, and an important educational role in New England and nationally.  They seek a highly motivated and experienced senior manager, committed to the mission, to revitalize this important museum. 

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Revitalize and shape the future of a high-profile tribal museum with a site and a facility capable of supporting virtually any initiative.

  • The museum’s location is advantageous, in easy range of major populations, near the tourist destination of Mystic, CT, and between New York City and Boston, thus creating the opportunity to significantly increase visitation and participation. 

  • Its subject is of great interest to domestic and international audiences, as well as to school groups.

  • The museum has established a strong working relationship with universities, providing potential for further research and sharing of the museum’s archaeological and collections facilities.

  • The core staff is highly capable and deeply committed to the museum.

  • The tribal business operation offers expert personnel in various areas, including building maintenance, food and beverage services, marketing, and human resources to support an expanded operational model.

  • Work with a newly-established board comprised of tribal representatives and outside advisors and supporters.

  • Join Native voices to outside expertise in archaeology and anthropology to create new interpretations of the history and contemporary life of the tribal community. 

CHALLENGES

  • Through a visioning and strategic planning process, it will be necessary to blend some differing ideas of what the museum should be into a common vision.

  • When incorporating tribal voices in museum exhibitions and programs, it may be necessary to occasionally balance tribal and scholarly perspectives on historical subjects, to reach a new consensus. 

  • The new executive director will have to rebuild the human infrastructure methodically, achieving Tribal Council approval and investment for each step.

  • The new executive director will need to inform the Tribal Council about the museum’s needs, advocate for the museum, and at the same time, will learn from the Council about Mashantucket Pequot culture.


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ABOUT THE MUSEUM

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum was founded in 1998, shortly after the Foxwoods Casino was established. Tribal leader Skip Hayward was the principal visionary for a museum exploring tribal history and culture.  Casino revenues funded design and construction of a massive, beautiful, state-of-the-art facility with expansive galleries, ample spaces for programs and events, two libraries, collections storage, archaeological laboratories, an auditorium, a store, and a commercial kitchen to service a restaurant and catering operation.  The museum rapidly built a significant collection through purchases, donations, and local archaeological digs.  The permanent exhibitions, featuring life-size dioramas of indigenous life at different points in prehistory and history, garnered national attention and praise. 

The museum’s visitation grew to 65,000 visitors within a few years. Educational programs for school children and adults drew substantial audiences. Many people used the library to research topics in indigenous history, and a special children’s library served local and tribal families.  An active archaeological department linked to academic other institutions continues to investigate sites on and off the Pequot reservation and generates grant income. The museum operated on a $10 million-dollar budget generously subsidized by the Tribal Nation with revenues from Foxwoods Resort Casino, and a more recently added Tanger Outlet Mall.  

The tribal casinos ran into financial difficulties during the economic downturn that began in 2008, and struggled to pay off a large debt. Cutbacks in the casino operation and tribal support hit the museum in 2014, forcing a restructuring. Its operation went from year-round to seasonal, positions were eliminated, and many programs were curtailed. More recently, the libraries and archaeological operations were largely closed. Visitation has declined to 37,000. The operating budget is now $4 million, of which close to 50% is earned or raised. The Tribal Council today has set a goal of seeing the museum establish a stronger financial position and reduce its dependence through increased earned and contributed income.  The long-term goal is to make the museum mainly self-sustaining. 

Under an Interim Director, the museum has taken strong early steps toward a new, more sustainable mode. An Operations Director has been hired. Rental events, including weddings and proms, are being actively marketed to increase earned income. Deferred maintenance of the building is planned, with measures identified in order of priority and a budget projected to address them from Tribal resources, possibly supplemented by grants. A plan is in place to establish for the first time a museum board, combining tribal cultural leaders with outside experts and supporters to support the administration, advocate to the Tribal Council, and help raise funds. The time is ripe for a capable and seasoned executive director to build on this start and guide the resurgence of this nationally important museum.

CANDIDATE PROFILE

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

The Executive Director is charged with management of the museum, working collaboratively with professional staff and tribal administrative support staff. The model is similar to working across various support departments at a university museum.  The Tribal Council oversees all tribal departments and facilities. Soon a dedicated museum board will be assembled; the ED will report directly to that group. The ED will lead formulation and execution of strategic plans and ensure that annual objectives are met. Early priorities will include:

  • Playing a key role in forging a common vision for the museum and a rebranding effort.

  • Learning about Mashantucket Pequot history and culture and engaging with the indigenous community.

  • Evaluate, plan, organize and oversee implementation of the strategic plan, engaging tribal leadership, staff, experts, and other stakeholders. A key component will be rebuilding the human infrastructure to support sustainable growth.

  • Identifying museum programs with the most likely impact on audience growth and earned income, and ensuring their development and presentation.  For example, exploring the creation or rental of appealing temporary exhibitions to draw repeat and new visitors.

  • Personally cultivating and securing support from individuals, businesses, and granting entities to support the thoughtful rebuilding of programs, and longer-term, to secure the financial health of the museum.

  • Actively encourage and enable the new Director of Operations to achieve further growth of revenue-generating activities such as facility rentals, retail sales, and restaurant operations.

  • After the first year or two, once a new vision and strategic plan are agreed upon, the process of updating the permanent galleries and reactivating the labs and archives for various uses can commence.

 QUALIFICATIONS

  • A Master’s degree in museum studies, public history, nonprofit management, or a content-related field; or the equivalent in education and experience.

  • Thorough knowledge of museum standards and best practices.

  • At least five years of experience successfully leading another museum, a large nonprofit organization, or a museum department of comparable scale and budget to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

  • Cultural sensitivity is required. Indigenous heritage is advantageous, but not required.

  • Strong interest in Mashantucket Pequot culture, preferably knowledge of tribal history, and eagerness to keep learning.

  • A desire to engage tribal members’ arts and oral history in a museum setting and to build a stronger relationship between the museum and tribal members.

  • Strong interpersonal skills. Enthusiastic and active listener who has a record of connecting with the community.

  • A record of successful fundraising via grants and cultivation of individual and corporate support.

  • Ability to perform many aspects of museum work, then delegate them to others as the staff grows.

  • Diplomacy, patience, tenacity, and resilience. 

  • A motivator and mentor willing to help with the professional development of staff, in particular, tribal members.

  • Experience with beneficial collaborations with other educational, academic, and cultural organizations.

  • A background with contracts and knowledge of legal issues would be advantageous.

 The position offers a highly competitive salary and strong benefits package.

ABOUT THE REGION

The Mashantucket Pequot Reservation is in a rural part of eastern Connecticut. Real estate is affordable and the schools in area towns are good. The woods and lakes of the surrounding area offer many opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation. Urban areas are nearby: Hartford and Providence are an hour away by car, Boston two hours, and New York City less than three. Beaches on Long Island Sound are a half an hour away.  

Eastern Connecticut area is now a major tourist destination with attractions including entertainment at Foxwoods; Mystic Seaport, the nation’s largest maritime museum; the Mystic Aquarium; the Dennison Pequotsepos Nature Preserve; breweries, several vineyards, and a wide assortment of restaurants, boutiques and antique stores.   

The area offers a vibrant local and regional arts scene, with many art galleries and museums across a 40-mile radius, from Old Saybrook, CT to Westerly, RI, including the Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyman Allyn Museum.  There is also a broad array of theater, dance and performing arts venues near-at-hand, and 37 colleges and universities are located within a 50-mile radius, including both 2- and 4-year schools and nearby Connecticut College in New London. 

HOW TO APPLY
Nominations welcome. Apply in confidence:
Email cover letter, résumé (Word documents preferred), salary requirement, and names of 3 references with contact information by April 22, 2019 to retained search firm: Scott Stevens, Senior Search Consultant, Museum Search & Reference/Marilyn Hoffman, SearchandRef@museum-search.com. References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant. EOE.