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SRHPF 12-01-JS  

Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum Names Barbara Franco as First Director

(January 31, 2012) Gettysburg’s new Seminary Ridge Museum, slated to open in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, announced today that Ms. Barbara Franco will serve as its first Executive Director of the Museum. 

Barbara Franco is nationally recognized as a leader in the history museum field and has served as a past Chairman of the American Association for State and Local History.  She brings a wealth of experience in historical interpretation and the opening and operation of new museums. She has been actively involved in planning for the Civil War 150th Anniversary at both the national and state level.  A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Cooperstown Graduate Program, Franco has led museum programs in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.  Most recently, she served for nearly 8 years as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

Franco expressed her “delight to be working on this project, helping to preserve and bring to life one of the most important surviving buildings of the Civil War era in Gettysburg and be a part of one of the lasting legacies of the 150th anniversary of the great battle.”

Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum is currently under construction in preparation for opening in the spring of 2013. The exhibits will interpret the dramatic developments of the first day of battle, including the pivotal role of the building and its cupola used as lookout by General Buford and others, its conversion to field hospital for more than 600 wounded, and the moral and religious tensions around slavery, African-American history and the local work the Underground Railroad. The interpretations will include video productions, ambient and visitor selected audio programs, artifacts, original murals by Dale Gallon and multi-generational experiences in more than 16 thousand square feet, plus a special ticketed tour of its famous cupola.

Bradley R. Hoch MD, representing the management committee of the museum project, said: “Barbara Franco's skill, experience and proven success in museum creation are nationally recognized.  She is the right executive director to open Gettysburg’s Seminary Ridge Museum, and we indeed are very fortunate." 

Michael Cooper-White, President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary and partner in the joint venture, captured the importance of the project and choosing leadership carefully: "Converting Schmucker Hall into a state of the art museum will faithfully steward a cherished heirloom that we bequeath to present and future generations who search for the significance of the American Civil War. This museum will be a unique study in human conflict, compassion and commitment and will benefit from the leadership and guidance of Barbara Franco, who has the special skills and knowledge to help us steward this great treasure."

Franco summed up her eagerness to join in the project, commenting “this museum will offer a new level of interpretation to the first day of the Battle, the building’s contributions to the social and religious context of the Civil War and its devastating aftermath.  I am pleased to be able to combine my research and interest in 19th century history with my experience in museum interpretation, education and marketing.”

More about Franco:

A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Barbara Franco has been working in museums and historical organizations since 1966.  She began her museum career as Curator of Decorative Arts at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York, and then worked as curator, coordinator of exhibits, and assistant director at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts from its opening in 1975.  From 1990 to April 1995 she served as Assistant Director for Museums at the Minnesota Historical Society, with responsibility for the educational programs, exhibitions and museum collections in a new History Center that opened to the public in the fall of 1992.  From 1995 to 2003 she served as President and CEO of The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., where she played an active role in promoting community history and heritage tourism. She headed up the project to create the City Museum of Washington, D.C., which opened in May 2003 at the renovated Carnegie Library building at Mount Vernon Square. From 2004 through 2011 she served as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the official history agency of Pennsylvania responsible for the preservation, interpretation and promotion of Pennsylvania’s past and one of the largest and most comprehensive state history organizations in the country.

She is currently working as Museum Director for a new museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, scheduled to open in 2013. The Seminary Ridge Museum in historic Schmucker Hall on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Gettysburg will be one of the lasting legacies of the 150th anniversary.  It brings a new level of interpretation to the first day of the battle, the social and religious context of the Civil War and its devastating aftermath.

She is recognized as a national leader in history museums and is a past chairman of the American Association for State and Local History.  Since 1997, she has been a faculty member of the Seminar for Historical Administration, teaching a course on “Managing Change” in historical museums and institutions. Ms. Franco has had extensive experience in exhibition development, published catalogues, articles, and given presentations on a number of topics that include historical interpretation, museum practice and historical research.  She has been actively involved in heritage tourism development and in state and national planning for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.



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