Minnesota Historical Society names new director

[Minnesota Historical Society press release. Commentary on this choice will follow in the weeks ahead.]

Current President of the New York State Historical Association and The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., will head state’s premier historical organization.

The Minnesota Historical Society announced today that its Board of Directors has named D. Stephen Elliott as director and chief executive officer, effective May 1, 2011. Elliott is currently the president and chief executive officer of the New York State Historical Association and The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“It is an honor to be chosen to lead an organization that is a national model for historical preservation and education,” said Elliott. “I have tremendous respect for the Minnesota Historical Society and the manner in which it has served the people of Minnesota for 162 years.”

Elliott has been the head of the New York State Historical Association since 2005. In that capacity, he was responsible for leading two related organizations with significant cultural collections: the Fenimore Art Museum with its world-class American Indian art and nationally important American folk and fine art collection, and The Farmers’ Museum, an outdoor living history museum of 19th-century rural life. From 2000-2005, Elliott was the executive director of the First Freedom Center in Richmond, Va. In addition, he served the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for 28 years in various capacities including vice president of education, administration and planning. He also has served on numerous museum, history, education and civic boards and currently is the chair of the American Association of State and Local History and the vice president of the Museum Association of New York.

“Steve Elliott is a proven leader in the field of history, with a strong commitment to education and public service, and a passion for history – an ideal match with the goals and vision of the Minnesota Historical Society,” said William Stoeri, president of the Society’s Governing Board.

Elliott follows Michael J. Fox, who became the Society’s director when long-time director Nina Archabal retired in January 2011. Fox joined the Society in 1987 and served as deputy director for programs before being named to the director post. To ensure a smooth transition in the Society’s leadership, Fox will remain on staff until his planned retirement May 31, 2011.

“My first order of business will be to listen and learn,” said Elliott.  “In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to ensure that all of our citizens hold a deep regard for history and its lessons for the future.”

Elliott will relocate to the Twin Cities with his wife Diane Elliott, who is also a museum and theatre professional, and their teen-aged daughter. “We are looking forward to becoming part of the vibrant arts and cultural atmosphere for which the state of Minnesota is renowned,” said Elliott.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. Its essence is to illuminate the past to light the future. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.

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