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Executive Director, Nantucket Historical Association

Nantucket Historical Association
Massachusetts, United States
Salary Not specified
Closing date
Feb 9, 2022

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Position Type
Arts, Museum
Employment Type
Full Time
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MISSION: The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.


VISION: The Nantucket Historical Association celebrates Nantucket’s unique place in American history and strives to fulfill their role as stewards of this heritage. By presenting transformative experiences, furthering scholarship, deepening our collections, and preserving our historic properties, the NHA aspires to be a standard-bearer among our peers


The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is a nonprofit cultural organization formed in 1894. Its mission is to tell the inspiring stories of Nantucket through its collections, programs, exhibitions, and properties. A membership organization with approximately 3,000 members, the NHA supports a year-round staff of 17 full-time employees and 30 additional part-time seasonal positions, making it one of the larger employers on the island.


One of the most visible ways in which the NHA accomplishes its mission is through historic preservation. For more than 125 years it has focused funds and efforts on preserving some of the most important and recognized structures on Nantucket and making them inclusive and accessible to the public. With the success of this project, all of its pre-civil war properties will be operated and programmed by the NHA. The NHA is owner and steward of 12 antebellum historic properties, two early 20th-century historically important properties (Greater Light and the Research Library), four other sites, plus a modern collection storage center and apartment complex. In 2006, the NHA opened a state-of-the-art exhibition and interpretation center appurtenant to the last remaining spermaceti candle factory in the world.


The NHA helps define Nantucket and Nantucketers’ place in history. Through its mission, it strengthens teaching the humanities in the island’s schools, it facilitates basic research to original scholarship, and through its programs and events, provides year-round residents and visitors with unique opportunities for personal fulfillment, thus improving the quality of their civic lives.


The NHA’s important collections of 30,000 artifacts represent most aspects of Nantucket’s history. The Research Library is a special collections repository of primary resources focusing on Nantucket history, housing 5,000 volumes and 60,000 photographs, as well as rare manuscript documents. A multi-phased and multiyear initiative is underway to digitize 100 percent of the collection.


In 2007, the NHA achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and in 2017, received coveted reaccreditation. In 2018, the NHA was accepted into the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Gateway program and in 2015 and 2016, the NHA was a finalist for the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal. The NHA was among five island institutions to advocate for downtown to receive a Cultural District designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Additionally, the NHA partners with over 50 local and regional nonprofit organizations, schools, and colleges in collaborative efforts to deliver a comprehensive suite of educational programs.


Open 11 months of the year, the NHA offers a comprehensive suite of programs for island residents, including free access in the winter and spring. The NHA projects 110,000 visitors for 2021, a record high number. This does not include the tens of thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy the historic sites throughout the year without paying for access to the interiors


With an endowment of nearly $30 million, the NHA is governed by a 30-member Board of Directors. The 2021 annual operating budget is $5.4 million which is supported by 37 percent in contributed income, 50 percent in earned income, and 13 percent from proceeds from the endowment. Approximately $1 million (or 19 percent) is dedicated annually to capital expenditure and preventive maintenance of the portfolio of properties.




The Executive Director of the Nantucket Historical Association will be a visionary leader, change agent, and big thinker who will provide stewardship and direction for NHA’s collections, historic properties, and venues. The Executive Director will serve as a trusted “keeper” of the island’s history and legacy, ensuring that the NHA tells the story of all of Nantucket – not just the whaling stories.


The Executive Director will engender a sense of trust and respect, and demonstrate a commitment to outreach, engagement, and programming across the many communities the NHA serves, and those it needs to serve better. The Executive Director will attract and engage new audiences in ways that reflect the richness and diversity of the association’s holdings, including craft and decorative arts, the stories they tell – old and new – and how NHA defines itself within contemporary society.  


The Executive Director will provide day-to-day management and have oversight over all programmatic, educational, and operational functions. Serving as chief fundraiser and spokesperson, this person will assume a highly visible and external role, and take a lead in donor identification and cultivation.


Overseeing the efforts of a highly engaged and dedicated team, the Executive Director will create and nurture an aspirational and highly collaborative culture that brings out the best in each person. They must generate and give voice to new ideas, as well as empower and support others to implement them.




The Executive Director will give priority to and have responsibility for the following: 


  • Review and build upon the NHA’s current strategic plan, and as a result, adopt and champion a well-articulated vision for the institution going forward; spearhead growth, set priorities, and allocate the resources necessary to achieve NHA’s performance goals and expectations;


  • Expand the reach, impact, and frequency of the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs; oversee interpretation; ensure the integration and balance of curatorial, programmatic, and educational objectives; leverage the museum’s assets, collections, and broad reach to increase visitorship, and create new and enduring partnerships within the local school community;


  • Nurture the intellectual life of the museum; embrace and maintain its ongoing commitment to scholarship and research which explores and embraces a contemporary narrative of Nantucket’s residents and their contributions, past and present;


  • Actively seek the highest and best uses for the NHA’s historic properties and galleries; address property acquisition and deaccessioning questions/discussions in a forthright manner; present and execute a coherent plan for the expansion of the Whaling Museum; position the NHA as a model institution in its response to rising sea levels and climate change concerns;


  • Develop strong and collaborative relationships with the President and other Board members; find ways to bring forth their best ideas and efforts; manage expectations, strengthen communications, and keep Board members well informed and up to date on the NHA’s institutional and fiscal standing;


  • As chief fundraiser, quickly solidify the NHA’s base of support; identify and cultivate new donors; grow the endowment and increase annual giving; clearly demonstrate an appreciation for the NHA members and volunteers, and ensure they are recognized and valued for their support;


  • Provide appropriate leadership and direction to all staff members; ensure that well-defined goals, clear responsibilities, and levels of accountability are in place to achieve excellence at all levels within the organization;


  • Thoroughly understand the museum’s collections and archives; provide for their long-term stewardship, growth, and accountability; work closely with the Friends of NHA group in their effort to expand and elevate the NHA’s collections;


  • Elevate the NHA’s use of technology in all aspects of operations, exhibitions, and programming; provide leadership for major projects including ongoing collection digitization efforts; enhance the museum’s use of social media as a tool for marketing, museum education, and community engagement.




The Executive Director strongly believes in the mission of the Nantucket Historical Association, and will also be or have the following experience and qualifications:


  • A proven track record leading a significantly complex nonprofit institution, ideally within a museum, historic home, or something comparable; experience aligning strategic planning with institutional capacity and fiscal resources; able to set goals and objectives and course correct as necessary; financial acumen with the ability to oversee the budget of a nonprofit institution;


  • Curatorial leadership experience with demonstrated interest and enthusiasm for American history; a commitment to the preservation, exhibition, and best use of the NHA’s collections and properties in scholarly research, exhibition, educational programming; able to leverage professional connections in the museum world to attract interesting partnerships and collaborations;


  • A persuasive and accomplished fundraiser, with strong external relations, communications, and public relations skills; campaign experience a plus; successful results in identifying, cultivating, and soliciting individual donors; able to connect with untapped philanthropic resources, potential partnerships, and revenue-generating opportunities;


  • A proven track record of effective and respected management; success in building and retaining staff with the strength to engage, inspire, and unite others to new levels of effectiveness, transparency, and programmatic impact; able to breakdown silos and to delegate, handle, and prioritize multiple activities and responsibilities with clarity and confidence and manage effectively in all directions;


  • Conversant in the use of technology and digital media in promoting an institution, reaching diverse audiences, and creating an innovative and engaging social media platform;


  • A willingness to actively participate in the cultural and civic life of the island and integrate the museum’s exhibitions and activities with the island’s other cultural resources;


  • Experience leading and managing a highly complex physical plant, with multiple historic properties, and an understanding and/or appreciation of building preservation and maintenance is a plus;


  • Superior communication and presentation skills that are effective with a range of audiences including volunteers, staff, business and community leaders, the media, and the general public;


  • Eager to live in Nantucket; be embedded in the community (housing for the Executive Director is provided by the NHA).




The ideal candidate will demonstrate a high degree of social and emotional intelligence, and will also have or be the following:

  • An entrepreneurial and outward-facing servant leader; one who will inspire and instill in others a sense of trust, confidence, energy, good feeling, and collaboration; someone who is viewed and respected as an advocate for the NHA and its potential;


  • A strong work ethic; able to manage multiple priorities and engagement strategies without getting ahead of what has been established as priority; a willingness to ask tough questions and make difficult decisions when necessary; able to maintain perspective and balance;


  • A good listener and communicator who can affect and manage change and prioritize resources, with conciliatory skills and the ability to bring clarity to plans and activities; a willingness to see and embrace challenges;


  • A proven commitment to the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to the success of the NHA;


  • Respect for Nantucket’s island culture; possessing a well-balanced local perspective or a willingness to develop one, with an appreciation and understanding of island living and the cadence of the seasons; maintaining on all fronts a sense of continuity, good humor, thoughtfulness, and common purpose.


For more information on the NHA, please visit


Nantucket Historical Association is an equal opportunity employer.


Applications, including cover letters and resumes, and nominations should be sent to Mark Tarnacki at

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