Director of American History Museum to retire

Brent Glass, 64, has announced he will retire from the Smithsonian. He is leaving his position as director of the National Museum of American History effective July 10; he will continue at the Smithsonian as a senior advisor through the end of this year.

Brent Glass

“It has been an honor and joy to further the Smithsonian mission for the past nine years by working to increase awareness of American history and national memory,” Glass said. “I am enormously proud of the museum staff and their team efforts. We transformed the museum and created a new public square on the National Mall. We acquired new collections, created more than 50 exhibitions and hundreds of public programs, and launched innovative online projects. We have enjoyed record attendance, and visitors love the museum.

“Now, after more than 35 years in government service, I am leaving in response to expanding opportunities to promote history education, historical literacy and public memory nationally and internationally,” he added.

“Under Brent’s leadership, the museum has been transformed,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “The response to the museum’s revitalization has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than twice as many visitors as before. One of the most successful accomplishments has been the revitalization of the museum’s public spaces, allowing them to come alive with historic theater, public programs and moving U.S. citizenship ceremonies in Flag Hall twice a year.”

Glass has served as director of the museum since 2002 and has overseen the most extensive renovation of the museum in its history, the conservation of the Star-Spangled Banner and the installation of major new exhibitions on transportation, maritime history, military history and first ladies’ gowns. Glass considers the renovation of the core of the building, completed in 2008, to be the highlight of his nine years at the Smithsonian.

Among the milestones under Brent Glass' tenure as director of the American History Museum is the unveiling of new "First Ladies' Gowns" exhibition. Michele Obama appeared with dress designer Jason Wu when she donated her own inaugural gown to the collection. (Photo by Richard Strauss)

The Museum of American History is the third-busiest museum in the Smithsonian complex with more than 4 million visitors in 2010. It has a staff of 250, an annual federal budget of about $30 million and about 3 million artifacts. During Glass’ tenure, the museum has raised more than $60 million from individuals, foundations and corporations.

An acting director for the museum will be appointed in July. Glass will serve as Senior Advisor to the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. A national search for a new director for the museum will begin immediately, headed up by Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture with the assistance of an executive search firm.

Posted: 28 June 2011
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