Small Museum Association

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Executive Director

04 Aug 2023 10:53 AM | Porzia Purves




Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) in its modern incarnation was established in 1966 by the State of Maryland.  After half a century of operation it is a well-established museum and park with a whole host of assets.  Its purpose is to explore historically and archaeologically the capital of the original colony of Maryland, founded in 1634 on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and to present the complex results of that undertaking to visitors and the wider public.

The achievements of the research program have made HSMC a premier 17th century research site in the U.S.

  • ·        The lost old capital has been brought back to life.
  • ·        The history of the Chesapeake Tobacco Coast has been remade.
  • ·        The discovery of the original 1634 fort and evidence of the very first Maryland settlers have put an essential piece of the historical puzzle in place.
  • ·        The clues left by indigenous First People who lived for several thousand years on the land are receiving close attention.
  • ·        The lives of the African Americans, both enslaved and free, who were bound to local plantations from the1640s onwards are being revealed and well documented.

Historic St. Mary’s City now proudly stands as one of the foremost early sites of settlement in North America.

The Museum’s interpretation and public programs, pioneers in living history, give visitors a glimpse of recreated raw and barely sustainable lives on America’s first frontier. The past is a foreign country, always out of reach, but those lost lives can be seen in a statehouse courtroom drama, lead coffins buried in the wing of a Catholic chapel and a collection of ceramic pots in a domestic dirt-floored pantry.

An 835 acre preserve provides opportunities for recreation both in the forests and fields as well as a dramatic waterfront on the St. Mary’s River.  A hike or bike ride on the miles of trails presents a timeless vista of human occupation.

Maryland is only a decade away from its 400th birthday that will place it, with Virginia and Massachusetts, in a very small number of original English colonies and states.

Historic St. Mary’s City will be at the very center of that commemoration.  There will be no better opportunity in our collective lifetimes to provide the first capital with the attention it deserves, making the museum and park a treasured gift and legacy to future generations.

That success begins with the all-important choice of a new executive leader who will accomplish the following:

  • ·        Continue to build a first-class museum and park based on the many previous achievements and a new master plan.
  • ·        As a partner with St. Mary’s College, embrace the growing and dynamic local community, the new Southern Maryland National Heritage Area, and the greater Washington/Baltimore area and beyond.
  • ·        Ensure that visitors have multi-day experiences with more facilities and resources on the St. Mary’s Townlands.
  • ·        Play a key role in 400th Anniversary plans to make HSMC the center of the commemoration for the entire state and the nation.
  • ·        Support the Fort to 400 Commission work for the 400th Anniversary

A new leader will find many challenges and can anticipate strong and growing support around the 400th.  The achievements of this major early American landmark will live long past 2034 for Maryland and the United States.


St. Mary’s County, where the first Maryland capital was established in1634, is approaching its 400th year.   The tidewater culture of the indigenous First People goes back over a thousand years before the English came to these shores.  The site includes over 100 structures including recreated “ghost” buildings in the town center, a recreated state house and chapel, the newly built Maryland Dove (a full scale reproduction of a 17th century square-rigged merchant ship), a tobacco plantation, a visitor center and a new interpretive center.

St. Mary’s County, a fast-growing area of the state, is a peninsula on the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay bordered by the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Its water and history are always nearby, and examples of its evolution can be found in all four of its centuries.  Its many attractions, scenic byways, historic sites, and recreational boating and camping make St. Mary’s an important state tourist destination.  The park and museum are open to the public from March through November and they host some holiday events.

Today, Maryland’s birthplace is a vibrant blend of a rich past and a modern technology-driven economy. Since World War II the U.S. Navy consolidated research, development, testing and evaluation of its aviation programs in the expanding Naval Air Station Patuxent River.  With approximately 20,000 personnel, it has grown into the major driver of St. Mary’s County’s thriving economic development.

Historic St. Mary’s City shares its National Historic Landmark District with St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). The College is a state-sponsored, publicly funded, non-sectarian and affordable four-year liberal arts institution, administered by an independent Board of Trustees. As a public honors college, it is committed to a focus on Maryland’s Heritage. It recently commissioned an innovative monument to the enslaved African Americans who lived and worked on what is now college property. Its Center for the Study of Democracy, founded as a joint initiative with HSMC, calls on its proximity to the nation’s capital to explore contemporary and historical issues related to democracy.  SMCM has an agreement with HSMC to provide some services on behalf of HSMC.

The long rich history of the Southern Maryland region, including St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert and southern Prince Georges counties, is featured in a new Southern Maryland National Heritage Area, one of two national heritage areas in Maryland eligible for federal support. This national heritage designation includes many historic sites including the St. Clement’s Island Museum, Point Lookout State Park, Patuxent Naval Air Museum, Sotterley Plantation and the Calvert Marine Museum.


The Executive Director (CEO) has the overall responsibility to carry out the mission and policies of Historic St. Mary’s City (consisting of a living history museum and park, and hereafter referred to as HSMC) as established by the Commission, including the financial, educational, archaeological research and conservation, collections, operations and staff management of the organization.

The primary responsibility of the CEO is to provide leadership, establish a clear vision for the present and the future, build a long-range strategic plan up through 2034, the 400th anniversary of the colony and state, and to maintain an organizational structure that has the competence and motivation to achieve the organization’s objectives. 


The CEO reports directly to and works in partnership with the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission, an independent state agency within the office of the Governor (hereafter referred to as the Commission) which functions as a board.  Most members of the Commission are appointed by the Governor.  Several others are appointed by General Assembly leadership.  The CEO is expected to meet regularly with the Chair of the Commission (who is selected by the members) about progress, operations, and future planning.

The CEO and the Commission establish policies for programmatic and financial goals.  The CEO has the responsibility, authority, and decision-making power to manage operations and finances, the staff and their activities, and the implementation of plans and programs based on those policies.


The CEO is supported by the following key positions.

  • ·        Chief Operating Officer (COO)
  • ·        Director of Research & Collections, who is responsible for overall management of the archaeological explorations on the HSMC property, the research associated with the discoveries and the presentations associated with the work.
  • ·        Director of Education, who oversees visitor engagement.
  • ·        Director of Facilities, who maintains an 835-acre park of HSMC properties, historic recreations and of recreational opportunities for visitors.
  • ·        Director of Business Enterprises
  • ·        Director of Development
  • ·        Director of Finance
  • ·        There are 30 regular state employees, and 40–60 contractual employees (including part-time and seasonal) for a total of about 70–90 staff. 
  • ·        There is a cadre of local volunteers who assist with programs, events and administrative support or welcome center.   These volunteers are valuable assets and need overall direction and recognition.  There is room for growth in the number of volunteers as well as community relationships.

The CEO is the primary HSMC liaison with the President of adjacent SMCM, on issues and projects that affect both institutions. HSMC and SMCM have an agreement to share some administrative functions and some facilities. There are other opportunities for cooperation that can provide great benefit to both institutions.  Faculty also are engaged with HSMC.


The CEO will work with the COO to establish annual and capital budgets and make sure that appropriate financial controls and reporting are in place.  The Commission will review and approve budgets prior to submission.  State funds comprise the major part of the museum’s funding with other earned income, grants and philanthropy making a significant contribution.  Increasing gifts will give HSMC greater flexibility.  The current annual operating budget is approximately $5.5 million.

The CEO has the responsibility of being chief liaison with the Governor’s office, the General Assembly and its committee and individual members in Annapolis.  In recognition of the unique historical importance of HSMC, its ongoing work, its importance to Maryland citizens and the upcoming 400th anniversary of the founding of the colony and then state, the Governor and General Assembly provide considerable annual support to HSMC.  Additional support for effective 400th anniversary projects can be expected.

The CEO will develop projects and opportunities that merit grant support and philanthropic contributions from individuals and other organizations.   The CEO will oversee the grant writing that provides support for archaeological exploration, research, historical programming and other activities.

The CEO works with the HSMC Foundation and its members, an independent 501c3 organization, that is created to solicit and receive charitable gifts from individuals and grant making organizations.   The Foundation has stewardship responsibilities for those gifts and the responsibility to work with the HSMC management to use such gifts in support of various programmatic or capital projects as determined by overall policies and by the donors’ wishes.  The CEO and the staff need to work with the Foundation to provide on-going and well publicized activities that are attractive to donors and to assist in the recognition of such donors. 


The CEO will oversee marketing and communications which create a clear and consistent identity for HSMC, attract visitors to HSMC from local, state and ever widening communities, manage public relations on behalf of HSMC and develop attractive and focused communications and newsletters that highlight the unique aspect of HSMC and upcoming anniversaries. This office works with the COO to accomplish these objectives, as well as to pursue opportunities for local and national exposure.


The CEO will provide oversight for stewardship of the physical plant, archaeological resources and natural environment, assuring they are well maintained, overseeing new construction and appropriate use of existing buildings, landscapes and collections.  The COO will support the maintenance of the physical plant and related work.


HSMC exists within a local community that has strong roots in St. Mary’s and within a growing community associated with the Patuxent River Naval Air Station,

The CEO is expected to become an active member of these communities, representing the discoveries, purpose and goals of HSMC to the surrounding area.  The CEO is provided with attractive waterfront living quarters with the expectation that s/he will use them to engage with the wider community.

(The house will be renovated over the next 6-9 months.  During that time alternate housing or a housing stipend will be provided.)


  • ·        Maintain open communication with staff, the Commission, the Foundation, SMCM, legislators and community members.
  • ·        Foster a balance of research and public programming that is both educational and entertaining.
  • ·        Museum experience.
  • ·        Knowledge of modern computer skills, social media, technology, and communication tools with a goal of making HSMC technologically effective
  • ·        Proven ability to manage a large program and staff, and to and integrate staff effectively into supporting that program.
  • ·        The ability to foster strong relationships between the various organizations, groups and individuals who all value what St. Mary’s is and could be.
  • ·        Effective public speaking skills and the ability to represent HSMC at public forums.
  • ·        Confidence and the experience to work with public officials.
  • ·        Working knowledge of supporting history research and presentation and an affinity for the pleasures of discovering historical subjects.
  • ·        Creating a balance of research and public programs.
  • ·        Upholding national museum standards promulgated by the American Association of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, the Society for Historical Archaeology and the National Recreation and Park Association.  HSMC received accreditation from the AAM in 2003.


  • ·        10 years experience in senior management of a museum or public program operations.
  • ·        Master’s degree preferred.   Previous senior experience in organizational and museum management is the paramount qualification.
  • ·        Cooperative leadership style that leads to overall results
  • ·        Willingness and proven ability to raise funds.
  • ·        Ability to work successfully in partnership with other organizations.
  • ·        Outstanding oral and written communication skills.
  • ·        Experience in working successfully with local organizations and public officials.

SALARY:   $150,000-$175,000

 A waterfront house for the Executive Director is included with the expectation that s/he will use the facility to engage with the local community.

Applications should include a cover letter and a CV.  Two references would be appreciated though contact will not be made until a final selection round.

Closing date:  September 15, 2023


Historic St. Mary’s City is an equal opportunity employer and encouragers applications from all qualified candidates, including minority candidates.

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