June 15, 2019

Gainor Davis Appointed to Lead Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Starting July 1

Gainor B. Davis, New Executive Director at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Conn.

ESSEX – The Connecticut River Museum, on the waterfront in Essex, Conn., has announced the selection of Gainor Davis as the new Executive Director. Chosen after a nationwide search, Ms. Davis will assume the duties of Executive Director on July 10, 2019.

Davis currently serves as the Executive Director of the Historical Society of Carroll County in Westminster, Md., a museum which she has led since January 2015. She is an experienced museum executive, having previously led several important institutions, including serving as the President/CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, for six years; as President/CEO of the York (Pa.) County Heritage Trust; as Director of the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier and Barre, Vt.; and as Executive Director of Longue Vue House & Gardens in New Orleans, La.

Davis has established a reputation of achieving financial stability for her institutions, along with overseeing up-to-date, audience-oriented, relevant programming that has attracted new audiences. Her accomplishments include overseeing the creation of three new hands-on spaces at three different museums – experience that uniquely qualifies her to create and open the Connecticut River Museum’s planned new River Discovery Center on its campus.

Davis brings a strong background in fundraising and marketing, and she has led two successful multi-million-dollar capital campaigns. Prior to her museum-director positions, her fundraising career included posts at Temple University in Philadelphia as Director of Development & Alumni Affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences; at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as Associate Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations; at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., as Deputy Director for Public Affairs, and at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as Director of Development and then as Associate Director of Administration.

Davis holds a Ph.D. in American History from Temple University in Philadelphia, an M.A. in American History and Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Delaware, Newark, Del., and an A.B. in History from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She has also published and lectured widely.

She stated, “I am very excited about the role that the museum can play in serving both the Essex-area community and the larger Connecticut River region north of the museum, extending into Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. I look forward to partnering with local and regional organizations to serve new communities. I am delighted to move back to New England and to the Essex region, where I have many ties, and to become part of the community” Davis added, “It is an honor to be invited to join the capable staff at the CRM and to work with such a committed Board.”

Peter Coombs, who chaired the Search Committee as well as chairing the museum’s board, said, “Gainor Davis was selected after a rigorous national search, with a unanimous decision of the Search Committee and the unanimous approval of the Board. We were impressed with Gainor’s accomplishments over a distinguished career as a history-museum director and advancement professional.”

Davis will take the reins from Interim Director Tom Wilcox, who is leading the museum through the transition period. Previous director Christopher Dobbs announced last August that he had accepted an offer to lead the larger Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., triggering the nationwide search.

The Search Committee was chaired by Board Chair Peter Coombs and co-chaired by Alison Brinkman. It included board and community members Tom Klin, Joanne Masin, Brenda Milkofsky and Tom Wilcox. For the national search, the Connecticut River Museum retained Marilyn Hoffman and Scott Stevens of Museum Search & Reference, an executive-search firm located in Manchester, NH and Boston that specializes in placing museum leaders.

Founded in 1974, the Connecticut River Museum has developed as a place where anyone interested in topics about the River can come and be inspired through exhibitions and collections, a library, educational opportunities and public programs. The mission is to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.

Since 1986, it has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a mark of distinction in the field. The Connecticut River Museum’s campus includes the preserved 1878 Essex Steamboat Dock and Warehouse, which was saved from demolition, the Hayden Chandlery, which now serves as the Thomas A. Stevens Library, and the historic 1732 Samuel Lay House.

Education is central to the museum’s mission, and public programs include workshops for school-age children, adult lectures, and on-water excursions aboard the recreation of Adriaen Block’s Onrust and RiverQuest as part of its popular eagle watches. Annually, the museum serves more than 20,000 general visitors, delivers programing to 4,000 school children, and provides scholarship support to a further 1,000 underserved school children and summer campers.

The museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is a membership-supported educational organization. Membership is open to all.

For more information regarding the Museum, call 860-767-8269 or see www.ctrivermuseum.org.

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