The Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) at the University of Oregon (UO) is a center for research, curates important and diverse collections, and offers wide-ranging and innovative exhibits and public programs. Officially created in 1935-36 as the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology and Museum of Natural History, the Museum has its roots in the late 1800s, when geologist Thomas Condon joined the University of Oregon as one of its first three professors and brought his extensive fossil collection to UO. Through the decades its anthropological, archaeological, paleontological, geological, and zoological collections have grown through scientific efforts, legal mandates, and private gifts. Recent directors have been archaeologists, including the current executive director who is retiring after a successful 18-year tenure highlighted by dramatic growth in facilities, programs, and endowments for education, research, and collections. Fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Museum now employs more than 60 full- and part-time staff members who operate the Museum with a budget of $1.2 million in general fund support from the University, with an additional $1-2 million in recurring contracts and philanthropic funds. Successfully emerging from a retraction brought on by COVID and the coincidental retirement of some long-term staff, the Museum continues to conduct and publish research, mount new exhibits, and sustain vibrant academic and community programming. Leaders have begun planning a new facility to expand and consolidate museum operations. Thus, the Museum is poised to grow its impact at the University and beyond.
MNCH seeks an Executive Director at an exciting moment, to establish a new strategic vision and bring the Museum’s varied programs and services into a cohesive whole, under one roof, and working together.
- Play a key role in the development of a new strategic plan.
- Lead a dedicated, skilled staff who are eager to build on progress and increase the Museum’s impact.
- Leverage opportunities for new revenue streams by responding to increased demand for the Museum’s archaeological, historic preservation, and curatorial services.
- Advance MNCH’s fundraising from the current, sound base of private donors, to new supporters who can provide expanded funding for facilities, programs, and endowments.
- Use the expertise of curators and staff to demonstrate the scope and depth of the Museum’s considerable assets to enhance established connections, attract new faculty, and enrich UO student experiences.
- Unify MNCH staff and operations—both physically and through shared purpose— housed in various campus locations.
- Reconcile differing ideas about the nature and scale of a new, unifying facility; build supportive consensus, and secure funding.
- Grow into a more vital role as an academic partner within the University and as a statewide resource, generating increased visibility and support.
The new Executive Director will be agile and creative, bringing a strategic approach that recognizes what has worked well, while committing new energy that will adapt the Museum for the next generation of opportunities and challenges. The Executive Director could be an academic or former academic but must have expertise in at least one of the Museum’s research areas. It is vital that they understand how collections and archives should be properly managed, stored, and used in accordance with current best curatorial practices and legal and ethical standards. They should have experience running a museum or equivalent organization with diverse subject areas, research objectives, and service elements. The successful Executive Director will apply big-picture leadership and management skills to increase communication and integration within the Museum and across the University, raise awareness throughout Oregon, and where appropriate, facilitate coordination and collaboration in pursuit of common goals. The Executive Director will support staff members and hold them accountable, while delegating operational oversight to effective managers. They will build on established relationships with University faculty and administrators to continue to align the Museum with University goals. The new Executive Director will listen, learn, and engage fully with indigenous Tribes and communities who have been historically under-represented in museums. An effective advocate, the Executive Director, who report to the University’s Provost and Executive Vice President, will work with University administration and elected officials to showcase the Museum’s value and leverage new support. The Executive Director will be authentic in their approach to working with people from all backgrounds and ideologies, able to garner private support through effective cultivation of individuals, businesses, and foundations. The Museum has historically attracted major funding, and raising funds will be an important priority.
- Lead strategic direction of an organization with six divisions encompassing a variety of research, programming, and services.
- Align resources to meet academic, curatorial, and community-focused initiatives and evaluate progress toward strategic goals.
- Articulate and be accountable to the highest standard of museum ethics in research, the acquisition and curation of natural history specimens and cultural objects, the representation of peoples and cultures, and the accessibility and inclusivity of programs and resources.
- Lead and manage recruitment, engagement, and retention of staff and advisory council members.
- Oversee fiscal management to ensure effective budgeting and use of resources, and timely, accurate reporting to University administrators and supporters.
- Advocate on behalf of the Museum to University administration, elected officials, and other stakeholders.
- Maintain and build on successful collaborative relationships with indigenous Tribes.
- Cultivate and solicit private donations and participate in donor stewardship in collaboration with University Advancement personnel.
- Plan for facilities consolidation and expansion in cooperation with University administration.
- Advanced degree in a field related to the role is required. A terminal degree is preferred.
- Five+ years of experience successfully managing a complex museum or other cultural, educational, or research organization, possibly a department within a large museum, preferably within the context of a university.
- Extensive knowledge that corresponds to the Museum’s content specialties.
- Demonstrated excellence in resource management, leadership, supervisory, and problem-solving skills, with clear measures of success.
- Demonstrated success securing major gifts from individuals, businesses, foundations, and agencies.
- Understanding of the complex issues around accessibility, equity, inclusion, and diversity in the museum setting and experience implementing strategies to effectively confront historical inequities.
- Ability and enthusiasm for being public face and a relationship builder for the Museum.
- Commitment to partnering with Tribal nations and Indigenous communities is required; experience developing relationships with Tribal nations is preferred.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply: email cover letter and résumé or CV and names of 3 references with contact information by April 21, 2023, to: Scott Stevens, Senior Search Consultant at: email@example.com. References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant, and all applications and nominations are kept confidential. Applicants are encouraged to apply early as candidates will be considered on a rolling basis. For full details, visit https://museum-search.com/searches-all#open-searches-section. Nominations and inquiries welcome.
- $165,000 per annum (commensurate with experience).
- Competitive benefit package [includes medical, dental, a 403b plan and paid time off].
More About the Museum
From its beginnings housing a fossil collection, the MNCH has grown to embrace earth science, anthropology, and archaeology. Its exhibition and educational programs blossomed following the 1987 creation of its current headquarters building, designed to evoke a Northwest style longhouse. A new wing completed in 2009 provides state-of-the-art curation for the Museum’s Anthropological Collections. Six divisions comprise the Museum: The Paleontological and Zoological Collections Division; the Archaeological Research Division; the Anthropological Collections Division; Oregon Folklife Network; the Public Programs Division; and the Central Administrative Unit. MNCH is both a federal and a state repository for archaeological and paleontological materials and their associated archival collections. See www.mnch.uoregon.edu for more information on collections, exhibits, research, and archaeological services. Its direction by a succession of archaeologists, break-through scientific accomplishments by directors, staff, and affiliated departmental faculty in archaeology, and increasing demand for contract services by its Archaeological Research Division have led to greater emphasis on that field within MNCH’s larger operation.
MNCH is funded by a combination of University general funds, state and federal contracts, grants, and private gifts. It serves University students, some of whom take classes in the Museum, while others perform projects, assist in research, or work part-time as front-line staff or collections assistants. A University student club serves as ambassadors to the student community of more than 23,000 students. Additional stakeholders include state and federal agencies served by the Archaeological Research Division, and Tribes who collaborate on a variety of projects. Museum visitors and program participants include tourists, primary and secondary school students and teachers, youth and families from the local community, and statewide audiences served through a robust outreach and traveling exhibit program. About 45 volunteers from the surrounding area work at the Museum, many of whom are well connected in the community, spreading awareness and providing financial support.
MNCH’s research is world-renowned, and museum members, staff, and University leaders are proud of the research-based nature of the Museum. In keeping with its Mission Statement, “the Museum enhances knowledge of Earth’s environment and cultures, inspiring stewardship of our collective past, present, and future.” Its Vision Statement is to serve as a “leader among university museums of natural and cultural history, a catalyst for intellectual discovery, a contributor to the University‘s mission, and a connection to our research and collections for diverse constituents.” Major exhibits have featured work by museum researchers and other faculty at the University. MNCH’s public programs are outstanding; staff members have broadened the concept of cultural history beyond anthropological museum traditions to include contemporary issues, with exhibits and programs that draw large audiences. Outreach to rural parts of state, such as talks by scholars and hands-on exhibits sent to libraries, are addressing real needs and are appreciated by participants and partner organizations. In addition to its AAM accreditation, the Museum was awarded a 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries.
The Archaeological Research Division is made up of research associates whose work is primarily funded by grants and contracts with state and federal agencies. The Museum currently has about 80 open grants or contracts for archaeological and historic preservation research. Paleontological and anthropological collections are used for University courses and by researchers from around the world. The Oregon Folklife Network is the dedicated folk arts agency for the State of Oregon, earning federal funding for ongoing research and programming that preserve and celebrate folk art traditions. A central administrative unit manages marketing and communications, human resources, business, and operational functions such as safety.
The University of Oregon is located in the Willamette Valley, on Kalapuya Ilihi, the traditional indigenous homeland of the Kalapuya people. Following treaties between 1851 and 1855, Kalapuya people were dispossessed of their indigenous homeland by the United States government and forcibly removed to the Coast Reservation in Western Oregon. Today, descendants are citizens of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, and continue to make important contributions in their communities, at UO, and across the land we now refer to as Oregon.
Today the Willamette Valley is known for its excellent wines, abundant recreational opportunities, and outdoor activity. The University of Oregon sits on 295-acres and features state-of-the-art facilities in an arboretum-like setting. Eugene is a vibrant and growing metropolitan area of over 200,000 people located two hours from Portland, and five hours from Seattle, with varied cultural and culinary offerings, a pleasant climate, and a community engaged in environmental and social concerns. In close proximity to coast, mountains, and high desert, Eugene is also a prime location for outdoor enthusiasts; skiing, hiking, fishing, rafting, cycling, and running are all popular pastimes in the area.
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