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Historic Deerfield (HD), a museum of American history, art, and architecture located in the Pioneer
Valley of western Massachusetts in the Town of Deerfield, seeks a creative and strategic professional
to serve as its next President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is an opportunity to lead a highly-
regarded cultural heritage institution, with a superb collection of historic homes, fine and decorative
arts, and early American material culture. Each year, about 25,000 ticketed visitors travel to western
Massachusetts to immerse themselves in an authentic, carefully preserved, beautiful setting. Historic
Deerfield is one of the nation's most treasured and best-documented small town communities, and
as such attracts devoted collectors, history scholars and students, and general audiences of all ages.
Simply put, Historic Deerfield evokes a sense of place that seeks to tell America’s story.
Historic Deerfield's roots go back to the 1930s, when Henry Needham Flynt and Helen Geier Flynt
began to purchase and restore the old houses along the mile-long stretch of road ("The Street"),
spearheading a painstaking preservation of Old Deerfield as a New England village that has its origins
in the seventeenth century. The effort is not dissimilar to work that had begun a decade earlier in
Williamsburg, Virginia. The Flynts acquired dozens of historic houses and incorporated Historic
Deerfield as a museum in 1952. Today, HD includes 55 structures, including a dozen historic houses,
the Memorial Libraries, and the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, as well as more than 100 acres
in the village and surrounding farmland. Its scope includes historic preservation, restoration,
education, interpretation, and research.
Historic Deerfield seeks a forward-thinking, entrepreneurial leader whose vision will excite and
engage current and new audiences. The President and CEO will possess the strategic, intellectual, and
operational skillset and experience to run a complex organization; boast a record of success in
generating contributed and earned income; evince the creativity and innovation to connect the
museum’s rich history with contemporary topics; and exhibit a consistent inclination toward
collaboration. Most of all, the President and CEO must have a passion for and commitment to history,
storytelling, and Historic Deerfield's mission.
Isaacson, Miller, the national executive search firm, has been retained to support the search
committee in this effort. Confidential inquiries, nominations, and applications may be directed to the
firm as noted at the end of this document.
"Authentic," "moving," "powerful": visitors to Historic Deerfield invariably summon these words
when describing their first steps onto The Street. Going to Historic Deerfield is transporting, but not
nostalgic: the emphasis is on preserving and interpreting, not recreating, the past. Most of the
original structures are on their original sites, the artifacts are specific to the region, and programs and
exhibitions adhere to historical integrity and accuracy. Importantly, Old Deerfield maintains the scale
and integrity of a seventeenth-century colonial community.
Historic Deerfield encompasses the historic houses (dating from around 1730 to 1848) and 42
additional structures on 110 acres. Nearly 30,000 objects of fine and decorative arts and material
culture used in America from 1650 to 1930 are found in the permanent collections. HD also includes
the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, a 27,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for special
exhibitions and visible storage; the Deerfield Inn, a country inn with 24 guestrooms and Champney's
Restaurant; and land holdings in the village of Deerfield and surrounding land, some of which is leased
to local farmers. Historic Deerfield is located within the Old Deerfield National Historic Landmark
District, which was designated in 1962. In addition to its rotating exhibitions, HD features galleries
that highlight the world-class textile, ceramics, and furniture collections. About 85 percent of the
collection is on public view, either in the historic houses or in the Flynt Center.
The annual calendar of events features tours, special exhibits, and over 75 public programs-
workshops, historic trades demonstrations, and lectures. Educational programs incorporate the
arrival of English colonists and free and enslaved Africans—and beyond—with the history and culture
of the indigenous people who first inhabited the area over 10,000 years ago. Utilizing the collection
for unique place-based learning opportunities creates experiences that not only highlight the past
but connect to who we are today and where our stories are headed. In addition, HD hosts significant
and prestigious programs that train and support emerging scholars and practitioners. The Deerfield
Summer Fellowship Program, which was established in HD's early decades for college
undergraduates, introduces students to museum work through a residential program that exposes
them to material culture and primary source research. HD also has significant relationships with area
colleges and universities: it is part of Five Colleges Incorporated, a consortium of Amherst,
Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In
addition, since 1976 HD has co-sponsored the Historic Deerfield/Wellesley College Symposium on the
History of American Culture. Historic Deerfield also sponsors The Dublin Seminar for New England
Folklife, founded in 1976.
The spectrum of activities at Historic Deerfield, then, includes academic programming, educational
offerings for general audiences, exhibitions of art and artifacts, historic preservation, landscape
preservation, living history, property management (HD includes apartments for summer fellows and
others, and a residence for the President and CEO), publications and research, and retail operations.
In addition, Historic Deerfield's ties to the community are unusually significant: the town's Fire
Department is located on HD property, and Deerfield Academy, Eaglebrook School, and Bement
School are neighbors, occasional partners, and stakeholders. The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial
Association (PVMA), incorporated in 1870, is another prominent institution devoted to the history of
Deerfield. PVMA is a neighbor and partner of HD, specifically with respect to the operation of the
Memorial Libraries. Historic Deerfield is very much part of the region's educational, cultural, and civic
Located in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts, Deerfield (population 5,000)
includes the villages of South Deerfield and Old Deerfield. The town is also home to Yankee Candle
and other businesses. Neighboring Greenfield, the county seat, has the distinctive benefits of a true
downtown with city and public safety offices, schools and churches, restaurants, banks, grocery
stores, and other essential retail entities. Deerfield sits in the upper Connecticut River Valley, not far
from the Berkshires. Deerfield is in close proximity to the vibrant academic and arts-focused
communities of Northampton and Amherst; it is 30 miles north of the city of Springfield,
approximately two hours from Boston, and roughly three hours from New York City.
Organizational Capacity and Finances
Historic Deerfield has about roughly 48 full-time and 106 part-time employees, including the staffs of
the Deerfield Inn and Museum Store, and approximately 70 volunteers. It is not possible to overstate
their professionalism, expertise, and dedication; while a lean organization, HD's personnel are deep
in knowledge and enthusiasm and devoted to the institution. They have been critical factors in driving
HD's success delivering high-quality programs and visitor experiences.
With a budget of about $7.7 million, an endowment of roughly $50 million, and total assets of about
$64 million, Historic Deerfield is financially stable in the near term. Even so, as is the case with nearly
every historical and cultural organization, HD is challenged to meet its many long-term needs. In019, HD publicly announced a $10 million capital campaign, America's Town, America's Story, to
support historic preservation, visitor engagement, and, specifically, the restoration of the Stebbins
House. Increasing revenue and controlling expenses are key to HD's continued financial health and
organizational future. To date, HD has raised approximately $6 million towards the campaign.
In response to COVID-19, Historic Deerfield closed to visitors in March 2020 and reopened in early
September 2020, with limited weekend hours. Access to the historic houses is restricted but visitors
remain engaged with outdoor walking tours, access to the Flynt Center, guided tours of Wells-Thorn
House, and additional programming both onsite and virtually.
Leadership and Governance
In 2021, after eighteen successful years as President and CEO, Philip Zea will step down from the helm
of Historic Deerfield. He also served Historic Deerfield earlier in his career, between 1981 to 1999, in
a series of roles that included Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Mr. Zea also was a participant in
the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program. Under his leadership, the museum achieved
numerous milestones, including the restoration of the Deerfield Inn following the flood of Tropical
Storm Irene in 2011, the acquisition of key properties including the Creelman House in 2018, and the
launch of the current campaign.
Historic Deerfield is governed by a 23-member Board of Trustees that regularly meets twice yearly
and holds additional meetings as needed to support the President and CEO. The Board, which
represents a wide breadth of life experiences, skill-sets, and geographies, is highly engaged and
passionately invested in the long-term success of the institution. HD is accredited by the American
Alliance of Museums (AAM); it is due for reaccreditation in 2022. HD is also a member of the New
England Museum Association (NEMA).
For more information, visit https://www.historic-deerfield.org.
Historic Deerfield is nearing the conclusion of its current five-year strategic plan, which emphasizes
inclusive engagement and interpretation, new audience development, and the preservation and
promotion of its significant collections and cultural assets, including historic preservation of Old
Deerfield. HD has developed new programs about the communities and cultures—European, African
American, and Indigenous—that make up Deerfield over the rich course of its history. Recent digital
marketing initiatives have been highly successful (as measured by a click-through rate of 4.4% against
the industry standard of 0.01%). Historic Deerfield has also embraced digital content delivery to reach
new audiences, and pursued regional partnerships to raise the profile of the area.
The breadth of Historic Deerfield—as a museum of art, architecture, and material culture; a historic
preservation organization; and an academic center supporting research and scholarship—means that
HD offers layered and subtle insights about early America. The operation of the overall enterprise,
however, is quite expensive and is supported to a significant degree by its endowment. It is
imperative that HD pursues innovative programming that attracts multiple audiences, and develops
robust streams of contributed and earned income.
The next President and CEO will have the opportunity to lead and partner with the Board and staff to
develop the next strategic plan. It can be anticipated that long-term sustainability will be a prominent
theme in the plan, along with continued relevance, and audience growth. Such themes are not unique
to Historic Deerfield; they are shared by museums and historic organizations everywhere. This
organization, however, is well-placed to thrive, given its formidable assets: its one-of-a-kind authentic
and immersive experience, its superb collections and the stories they can inspire, and the individual
and collective enthusiasm of HD's people.
ROLE OF THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
As the head of a complex and ambitious organization, the President and CEO plays a strategic and
unifying role. The President and CEO provides inspiring leadership, communicates a compelling and
overarching vision, ensures institutional cohesion and sustainability, and works with the Board, staff,
and community to identify and implement institutional priorities.
Externally, the President and CEO serves as the public face for the organization, cultivating and
strengthening relationships locally and nationally with existing and new audiences. Internally, the
President and CEO inspires and fosters individual enthusiasm, cultivates transparency and clarity
around organizational initiatives and decision-making, promotes a shared sense of purpose, and
ensures effective teamwork and communication.
Reporting to the President and CEO are the Senior Vice President, the Chief Financial Officer, the
Director of Development, and the Director of Marketing.
KEY OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
The President and CEO will be empowered and expected to:
Develop and communicate an innovative and sustainable vision for Historic Deerfield.
The next President and CEO will work with the Board and staff of the organization to craft a relevant,
inclusive, viable, and strategic vision for Historic Deerfield. Historic Deerfield appeals to audiences at
all levels, with interests in a variety of topics including history, fine and decorative arts, architecture,
landscape, cultural experiences, and recreation. This breadth enables the museum to engage a broad
swath of visitors, but can also stretch the capacity of the organization. As the President and CEO
prepares to lead the Board and staff in the development of the organization's next strategic plan, it
will be important to foster open dialogue about current offerings, the better to assess present-day
impact, identify the key elements that HD does so well, and explore ways to leverage and amplify
those key elements.
Fortify finances and increase fundraising.
Currently, Historic Deerfield's operating expenses are met with a significant amount of annual
financial support from the endowment, as well as from a dedicated but relatively small number of
HD stakeholders. To achieve the ambitious goals and meet the operational requirements of the
organization, contributed revenue streams must be increased and diversified. This requires a
President and CEO with an appetite and flair for donor cultivation and solicitation, experience in
successful and ambitious capital campaigns, and a keen understanding of individual and
organizational donor interest. In recent years, Historic Deerfield has established a strong
development/advancement infrastructure and highly skilled staff in this area.
The next President and CEO must also be analytical and thoughtful in developing new streams of
earned revenue, managing expenses, and developing budgets. Key success drivers will be creativity,
entrepreneurship, and clear communication of financial goals to staff and Board.
Raise the visibility of the organization.
Despite its well-earned reputation for excellence among those familiar with Historic Deerfield,
awareness of the organization is not as broad as is warranted. The President and CEO should bring
an outward-facing, supporter-centric orientation—and the ability to champion and advocate for the
organization to new audiences and prospective donors. A successful strategy will include leveraging
the collections and the value material culture can bring to visitor engagement, both on-site and off-
site through digital content and collaborations with other organizations. Continuing to explore
different methods to reach audiences through innovative marketing and technology will be critical.
This will result in greater recognition on a national level of Historic Deerfield and its mission.
Strategically manage and assess operations.
The next President and CEO will have the business sense, administrative experience, and
organizational knowledge to support an organization committed to both innovation and sound
management. Historic Deerfield has a professional and highly knowledgeable corps of employees,
but it is a lean operation, possibly too thinly staffed in some areas. The President and CEO must have
a full understanding of the work across the organization and identify where further investment is
required to make it possible for the museum to achieve its full purpose and impact. A willingness to
evaluate, an ability to think strategically and tactically, and an appetite for calculated risk will be
critical for the next leader.
Lead, inspire, and engage.
The President and CEO will be an effective and tireless communicator who recognizes and celebrates
the efforts and accomplishments of others. Internally, the President and CEO will model a culture of
transparency, focus, and unity of purpose; empower the staff to make full use of their strengths and
experience; and ensure organizational cohesion. Externally, the President and CEO will be an
energetic and charismatic ambassador, building excitement, passion, and support for HD. The role
requires enthusiasm, diplomacy, persistence, creativity, and affability: Historic Deerfield's leader is
conspicuous in the community, and must cultivate and sustain relationships with others in the area
to achieve success.
QUALIFICATIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS
The successful candidate will bring many of the following professional and personal experiences,
qualifications, and characteristics:
success in conceiving and implementing innovative approaches that increase organizational
- Leadership experience: Visionary, entrepreneurial, and courageous leadership. Demonstrated
impact; a record of dynamic partnership with a committed Board.
institutions; appreciation for the challenges that collections-based organizations face. Dedication
- Professional knowledge: An understanding of the special requirements of cultural heritage
to and passion for history and the power of material culture in storytelling. A commitment to
and implementation of strategy, new business development, market creation, and the
- Business and financial skills: Accomplished executive management, including the formulation
establishment of key partnerships and collaborations. A keen understanding of finances;
demonstrated track record of innovation and informed risk-taking within a non-profit setting.
organizational contexts. Familiarity with individual and organizational giving, demonstrated
- Substantial fundraising experience: A record of bold and effective fundraising in similar
effectiveness raising sights, and professional experience that has allowed for the development of
robust networks that may benefit Historic Deerfield.
professionally fulfilled staff. Collegiality and an orientation toward teamwork and partnership.
- Administrative experience: Demonstrated success in attracting, retaining, and mentoring a
Successful experience in capacity building in small but complex institutional settings. Bias to act,
coupled with practicality, transparency, and inclusion. Excellent organizational skills.
of expression; inspiring rhetoric; candor; diplomacy and tact. Ability to achieve consensus among
- Outstanding communication skills: Superb capacity for written and oral communication. Clarity
a wide range of constituents and to generate excitement around ideas. Political savvy, sensitivity
to tone. A natural talent for cultivating and deepening relationships and establishing beneficial
Integrity, dependability, and steadiness; the ability to lead all members of an organization with
- Personal qualities: Exquisite interpersonal skills, empathy, and high emotional intelligence.
fairness, humility, and compassion. Personal and professional drive, energy, persistence,
resilience, and optimism. An ability to engage individuals and groups within and outside of an
organization through one’s personal style, humor, and warmth.
Confidential inquiries, nominations, referrals, and resumes with cover letters should be sent
Anita Tien, Partner
Ryan Leichenauer, Senior Associate
Historic Deerfield is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities,
protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities and encourages applications from these and
other protected group members.
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