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Tribe renews bid to fill museum’s executive director position

March 30, 2019 GMT

Mashantucket — The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has renewed its efforts to hire an executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, a sprawling facility beset in recent years by declining financial support from the tribe, staff reductions and dwindling attendance.

An online posting for the long-vacant position lays out the challenges that await a new executive director.

“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 posting says. “The long-term goal is to make the museum mainly self-sustaining.”

The new director will need “to blend some differing ideas of what the museum should be into a common vision,” it says. “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.”

Museum Search & Reference, a Londonderry, N.H.-based consulting firm, has been retained to conduct the search, which began this month.

“It’s a very important museum — a leader, really,” Marilyn Hoffman, the firm’s principal, said Friday.

In its heyday, the 21-year-old museum operated on a 4 million, of which close to 50 percent is earned or raised.”

Under an interim executive director, Donna Capoverde, the museum has hired an operations director and generated rental income by hosting weddings and proms. A plan is in place to establish a board made up of tribal representatives and outside advisers who will oversee the museum.

In January, the tribe laid off the museum’s longtime director of research in a cost-cutting move.

Nevertheless, Hoffman said that aside from the commercial side of the operation, the museum remains focused on educating the public and research.

“They really are separate,” she said.

The museum’s previous executive director, Jason Mancini, who resigned in December 2017, lauded the tribe’s most recent efforts to replace him.

“The Pequot museum is a gift to the world and has the potential to transform the ways the public understands and engages Native peoples — locally, nationally and globally,” Mancini, now executive director of Connecticut Humanities, a Middletown-based nonprofit, wrote in an email. ”... This is indeed a critical time for the museum, as all institutional knowledge is gone and scholarly collaborations have languished. ...”

Museum Search & Reference also is leading a search for an executive director for the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, and also conducted a search that led to V. Susan Fisher’s appointment in December as executive director of the Mystic Museum of Art.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com