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Fort Devens Museum will switch to part-time director

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The Fort Devens Museum board of directors writes to inform you of basic changes made recently that affect museum operations and the immediate outlook for a permanent home but do not change the museum’s mission and its integrity.

The board recently accepted the resignation, with regret, of the museum’s executive director, Ian Meisner. Ian has concluded that the time had come to accept that the vision of securing a permanent home for the museum must be viewed as a long-term project rather than a fund-raising effort that could be accomplished quite quickly. From this understanding, he reasoned that the financial interests of the museum would be best served with a part-time director as permanent-home funds are being accrued. With the basics of the museum operation in place, a smaller operations budget could allow for the diversion of more funding to the goal of securing that permanent home.

Ian knew that this line of thinking meant that he must seek to continue his career elsewhere. He has actively set about this task.

The board, too, came to realize that seeking to raise over $1 million in funds for major renovations and code-standard-meeting requirements on the historic American Red Cross building, proposed as the museum’s permanent home, would take a great deal more time than at first expected. Board members concurred with Ian that this was the time for a shift in operations.

As the museum’s first and only full-time executive director, Ian has indeed put a strong foundation in place. He had presided over the acquisition and archiving of what has grown to become a ready collection of over 5,000 artifacts and materials. He had worked to prepare a large number of displays at the museum’s temporary home at 94 Jackson Road, Devens, to show the many phases of Fort Devens’ history. Along his four-year path of service as executive director, he had also helped many people to find answers to their inquiries and sources for their research on Fort Devens-related subjects and he had brought stories of Camp and Fort Devens out into the community in numerous speaking engagements.

As arranged by the board, a Planning Committee has been meeting to establish a smooth transition to this new period of museum operation. Serving on that committee have been the museum’s Executive Committee and board member John Ott. The latter brings his considerable experience with and knowledge about all phases of museum operations and management.

A first task of the board president and Planning Committee has been to make sure that sufficient funds are in place so that the museum can continue to operate on its more limited schedule each week in the fiscal year ahead. Through membership dues, special programs, gifts and donations, and continued funding support from MassDevelopment, the committee has found that the museum will be able to remain open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum will continue to be in a position to acquire additions to the collection, create new displays for viewing and talks for informing the people about subjects relating to Camp and Fort Devens, publish a newsletter, and serve as a source of materials for scholars and the general public.

The Planning Committee has selected a new part-time director of the Fort Devens Museum, who will be on board in June.

During the interim between Ian’s resignation and the putting in place of this new part-time director, board members have been providing coverage to keep the museum open on the new schedule. This has provided an opportunity for us to enhance our knowledge of day-to-day operating procedures. The board will also work with museum volunteers to further extend the services the museum provides.

Meanwhile, Ian remains available to provide guidance and advice.

The board assures all contributors that money specifically contributed toward the fund for a permanent museum home has been placed in an account at the North Central Massachusetts Community foundation. There it will accrue interest and remain dedicated to help fund that future museum home.

The board encourages members and friends of the Fort Devens Museum, then, through your membership and dues and gifts to continue to support the ongoing operations of their museum and to consider also adding to funds specifically meant to provide eventually for the museum’s permanent home. Such funding remains fully protected and dedicated for that goal. Watch in upcoming newsletters and for community newspapers for news of events and displays of the museum as it continues to make progress and grow.

Come see the museum, meet its new director and get acquainted with our collections. You might consider, too, becoming a museum volunteer as a good way to learn more about the heritage of Fort Devens.

ELBERT L. TOMPKINS

President, Board of Directors

Fort Devens Museum