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PRESIDENT Philadelphia, Pennsylvania THE SEARCH The Independence Seaport Museum, a nationally-known maritime museum on the


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


The Independence Seaport Museum, a nationally-known maritime museum on the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia, seeks its sixth President. This is an opportunity for a proven leader to direct the Museum’s strategic growth, enliven its programs and exhibits, strengthen its financial resources, and increase its visibility and connection to the community it serves.

Founded in 1960 as the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum is the region’s primary repository of art, artifacts and archival materials relating to the maritime history

of the Greater Delaware Valley and the related social history of the Port of Philadelphia. The

Museum is located on Penn’s Landing in a city rich in historical significance and cultural attractions. With a $12 million endowment, a unique collection that includes the historic warship Olympia, a waterfront location, and a dedicated staff and Board, the Museum has significant assets. After a challenging period in its history, the Museum is moving ahead with resolve and

optimism. The President will be charged with working closely with Board and staff to fulfill the Museum’s potential for innovative programming, excellence, and community leadership.

This important role calls for a leader with integrity, vision and creativity who values the maritime and social history of this region and is committed to the Museum’s mission. The position calls for senior-level management experience in an organization of similar size and complexity. This may well be a museum or another visitor- or member-oriented not-for-profit organization that is known for its excellence, but this is a flexible requirement. Fund raising, marketing, and external relations skills are essential.

A six-member search committee of the board has been named to conduct this search, assisted by

Isaacson Miller, a national search firm. Please direct nominations, inquiries, and application materials in confidence to the search firm as indicated at the end of this document.



BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT History The Philadelphia Maritime Museum was founded in 1960 by J. Welles Henderson,

The Philadelphia Maritime Museum was founded in 1960 by J. Welles Henderson, a prominent Philadelphia attorney, and began serving the public with small maritime-related exhibitions, archival materials and collections. By the end of the 1960’s, the Museum’s visitation and inventory had grown substantially, requiring it to move in 1974 to larger quarters within the Independence Park Historic District. In the early 1980’s, the Museum opened the Workshop on the Water, a fully operational boat building facility used for display and teaching purposes. It was located on Penn’s Landing, which not only established a strong institutional waterfront presence, but also became an anchor attraction for the revitalization of the historic waterfront area.

By the early 1990’s, the Museum had outgrown its existing space once again, and a new location on Penn’s Landing became economically viable when the City of Philadelphia’s Port of History

building became available. A $15 million renovation and expansion of the building, which had stood vacant for twenty years, began in 1994, and the new facility was opened to the public in

1995. The Museum was renamed as Independence Seaport Museum with increased exhibition,

educational, library and storage/curatorial space and an incorporated Workshop on the Water.

At the beginning of 1996, the Museum assumed responsibility for the famous ship named Olympia, and the World War II submarine, Becuna, both of which are National Historic Landmarks.

The Museum continued to grow steadily through the end of the 1990’s until the downturn in the economy in 2000. The Museum welcomed its one-millionth visitor in 2004.

Collections and Exhibits

The Seaport Museum’s trove of 14,000 artifacts range from one of the only extant copies of the Titanic’s first-class passenger list – rescued in the pocket of a Philadelphia survivor – to the USS Olympia, the 6,000-ton steel warship which was Admiral Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay and which returned the body of the Unknown Soldier to Arlington National Cemetery after World War I. Other highlights of the collections include the papers of Philadelphia's Irish-born naval commander, John Barry (1745-1803), who is hailed as the father of the U.S. Navy, the introduction letter prepared by the U.S. Congress in 1784 for the first American ship to open trade with China, and many maritime-related rare books.

Exhibits at the Seaport Museum range widely over many aspects of maritime’s present and past, including the science of boats, trade with China, undersea exploration, the workings of Philadelphia’s commercial port, immigration, boating in the Delaware Valley, the founding and history of the U.S. Navy in Philadelphia, and other subjects.

In support of the Museum’s mission to interpre t maritime history, the curator will occasionally

In support of the Museum’s mission to interpret maritime history, the curator will occasionally

From June 16

exhibit maritime art that can rarely be viewed at any other venue in the region.

through September 30, 2005, for example, the Museum opened a first-ever exhibit of the works

of the late Thomas Hoyne.

Ships and Boat Building

Since 1996, the Seaport Museum has been solely responsible for the preservation and conservation of two National Historic Landmarks, the USS Olympia and USS Becuna. The USS Olympia is known for its role in the key Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War and later served as a convoy escort vessel during the First World War, where in one of her last missions, Olympia brought the body of the Unknown Soldier home to its final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.

A veteran of the underwater combat of World War II as well as Cold War Arctic ice exercises,

USS Becuna was commissioned in 1944 and completed 25 years of active submarine service

before being decommissioned in 1969.

Over the years, the Museum has also purchased a number of other boats for charter purposes, most of which have now been sold. The Museum currently has 60 boats in its small craft collection in addition to its two historic ships.

Nestled inside the Seaport Museum is Workshop on the Water, where craftsmen build and renovate wooden boats. The only one of its kind in Pennsylvania, the Workshop specializes in building boats indigenous to the Delaware Valley and New Jersey Shore. The arts of the builder, rigger, and sailor are promoted through the construction and restoration of a wide variety of 19 th century boats.

Workshop on the Water has two full-time craftsmen who are assisted by a corps of volunteers. The Workshop occasionally offers boat-building classes geared to providing amateur builders with the instruction they need to get started on their own projects.

Education and Research

Over 20,000 students visit the Museum each year, and both Board and staff cite this as the Museum’s greatest contribution to the community. Most who visit attend schools with scarce resources and few extracurricular activities. The museum is currently exploring ways to attract a broader spectrum of schools as well.

Students navigate the cramped spaces of a World War II-era submarine or stand where Commodore Dewey once stood on Olympia and issued the order, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” They learn about other aspects of local history as well, such as ship-building, the Philadelphia Naval Yard, trade with China, the commercial operations of the port, oil tankers,

early explorers, pirates and warf are, immigration and the role of the Navy. This region

early explorers, pirates and warfare, immigration and the role of the Navy. This region boasts a rich history that lends itself to many educational lessons.

The Museum also serves as an educational center for contemporary river-related issues such as the environment, its ecosystem and its continuing role in the region’s social and economic growth. Its educational programs meet the curriculum requirements of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Seaport Museum's Library offers an impressive range of materials used by historians, authors, sailors, boat-builders, and students from all over the world. Its holdings include 12,000 volumes in the general reference collection, more than 400 rare books, more than 9,000 ships’ plans, about 25,000 items in its image files, and many collections of letters, diaries, logs and business papers. The Library also maintains subscriptions to 35 current periodicals. Each year, the Seaport Museum Library staff answer about 300 reference inquiries.


The Seaport Museum building includes 28,000 square feet of exhibit and gallery space, an auditorium, and indoor and outdoor areas available for hosting large groups. A 20,000 square foot collections storage facility owned by the Museum is located approximately 15 miles north. Parking is available adjacent to Museum property.

The 530-seat Concert Hall is equipped with stadium-style seating and praised for its acoustics and design. Through this facility, the Seaport Museum can accommodate non-profit organizations and civic groups who are in need of a reasonably priced rental space for plays, public hearings, concerts, graduation ceremonies, lectures and seminars, recitals, and corporate events.

The Seaport Museum is ranked by the Philadelphia Business Journal among the “top ten” rental facilities for meetings, dinners, and other events. Offering commanding views of the Delaware River and the waterfront, the Museum offers both indoor areas and outdoor terraces for dining.

In 2006, the Museum began work on a new 69-seat panoramic theater on the first floor, made possible by a $400,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The theater will open in 2007 and offers opportunities to expand the Museum’s service to the community by offering big-screen commercial films.

More detailed information on the Museum’s exhibits, collections and programs can be found at

Governance, Organization, and Finance

The Museum is governed by a 17-person Board of Port Wardens whose members serve up to two consecutive three-year terms, with reelection possible after one year off the Board. The Board

has a committee structure that includes seve n standing committees (executive, governance, nominating, finance, audit,

has a committee structure that includes seven standing committees (executive, governance, nominating, finance, audit, planning, curatorial/library).

The Museum has a staff of 28 full-time and 7 part-time employees. The staff members who report directly to the President include the Director of Operations (who oversees Education, the Boat Shop, Building Management, Visitor Services, Historic Ships and the Controller), the Director of Marketing and Development (who also oversees Facility Rental), the Librarian and the Curator. Approximately 40 volunteers donate their time as docents, and others offer their assistance in the boat yard or museum store.

The 2007 operating budget is $4.2 million. Earned revenues (admissions, facility rental, memberships, museum store sales, and boatbuilding) are expected to contribute $1.2 million in revenue in the current year. Contributions from major donors (including board members) and individuals are expected to total close to $600,000 and foundation grants will account for $300,000 in revenue. Government support for the current year is at $1.1 million, which includes $400,000 for renovation of the room that will become the new Panoramic Theater. Support from earnings on the endowment is budgeted at $570,000 which is 5.5% of the three-year rolling average of the endowment’s value The Museum will rely on additional support from the endowment totaling $300,000 to balance the budget.


In the early years of this century, the Seaport Museum began to experience the first signs of a downturn in the economy and changes in the cultural landscape with regard to museum visitation. Invested funds, valued at close to $30 million in 1999, lost $1.8 million in 2000, the first loss in five years. During the next three years, the invested funds continued to lose value. These losses were accompanied by a drop in admissions income, membership and facility rentals. Visitation began a steady decline, from 140,000 visitors in 1998 to 88,000 visitors in 2005. History museums across the country experienced similar declines in revenues, visitation and endowments during this period of time, with the resulting financial strains that followed.

Exacerbating these national trends, the fall of 2000 marked the beginning of an expensive eighteen-month restoration on the Museum’s charter vessel, Enticer. The restoration effort was completed in time for the 2002 charter season. However, by August 2002, it became clear that planned development at Penn’s Landing, which the Museum had hoped would attract thousands of new visitors, would not happen. During 2003, the City solicited new development plans, a process that would eventually become stalled and then completely scrapped by fall 2004.

Coupled with these external challenges, the Board discharged the President of the Museum in June, 2006, after a forensic accounting audit revealed significant irregularities in management of the Museum’s resources. The Museum is currently pursuing legal action against the former President to recoup alleged losses of Museum assets they estimate at $2.4 million.

Since the departure of its former President, th e Museum’s Board has taken many deliberate

Since the departure of its former President, the Museum’s Board has taken many deliberate steps to assess its situation and rebuild strength. Under the leadership of a new Chair of the Board who assumed the post in September 2005, changes were made to the Museum’s governance structure, including instituting a new audit committee and separating the audit and finance functions at the Board level. A new auditing firm was also hired. A governance committee was formed and charged with reviewing all the governance practices and organizational documents of the Museum and developing best practices for not-for-profit governance and financial management. And in December 2006, four new members joined the Board, bringing fresh perspective and support.

The yacht Enticer was sold in June 2006 for $1.9 million and the Spruce Street residence which had been the President’s home was sold for $2.15 million in September, adding to the endowment. Those revenues, coupled with a $1 million endowment gift in May 2006, one of the largest single gifts in the Museum’s 46-year history, have helped the endowment begin to grow again, to its current level of $12 million.

The Museum has taken steps to inform current and former donors of these important changes and assure them of the board’s leadership. And, in fact, many foundations, public agencies and individual donors made significant grants or gifts to the Museum in 2006.

On the program side, the Museum opened a new temporary exhibit, Women and the Sea, in November 2006 and began planning a new exhibit on “tattoos” which will open in the fall of

2007. Renovation work began on the Panoramic Theatre.

museum consultant to prepare a situation analysis for the Museum which was delivered to the Board at its September 2006 meeting.

In addition, the Board retained a

Once a new President is in place, the Board plans to review and update the strategic goals of its 2006-2010 Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Board in December 2005. This plan set out goals for the next five year period with specific targets and actions in all areas of Museum operations. Broad strategic goals were: ensuring financial vitality; developing and preserving the Museum’s collections, exhibitions, educational programs and historic ships; maximizing the Museum’s space, accessibility and visibility; and building awareness and visitation for the Museum through marketing efforts.

The Museum is approaching the future with optimism, realizing there are many challenges ahead but also many opportunities for growth. The organization needs to increase the number of visitors and to enhance the visitor experience, putting energy into preserving what is on point with the Museum’s mission and ensuring that programs, exhibits, and collections meet high- quality, professional standards. Long-deferred updating of permanent exhibits, care of collections, the acquisition of new collections and use of new technologies for archival records are needed.

New opportunities for alliances and community involvement need to be explored. The Museum will seek to make its rich archives available and consider ways to expand its educational

offerings. Moving forward, the Museum anticipat es innovative and changing exhibits, more special events, and

offerings. Moving forward, the Museum anticipates innovative and changing exhibits, more special events, and programming geared to targeted audiences. And the Museum realizes that innovative new programming must be balanced with growth in all revenue areas.

The demographics are favorable for the future. Tourism in the region is increasing, and cultural and historic attractions are the draw. Tourists are coming in greater numbers, staying longer and spending more. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation’s general effort to market the region is an asset for all cultural institutions. In the community, the affluent, college- educated Center City district of Philadelphia is increasing in population. These young professionals and “empty nesters” match the demographic profile of the cultural patron who attends concerts and visits museums. Both museum patrons and tourists welcome the opportunity to visit several museums in a single city.

On Penn’s Landing, a new development effort is emerging that will eventually reshape the landscape around the museum. Center City District and a number of other leadership organizations are re-activating interest in sensitive, planned development of this area. The Museum’s building can be a greater resource for community convening, with its auditorium, theatre, and large rooms for special events, conferences, and community gatherings. Its programs and exhibits can be a draw for tourists who visit Penn’s Landing for other forms of entertainment.

The Museum has endured a very difficult chapter in its history and has emerged with hope for the future and with significant human, physical and financial resources intact. Now the Museum looks for a leader who can demonstrate commitment, competence, and integrity a creative and strategic thinker, able to inspire and lead the Board and staff. The goal is a premier institution that is widely recognized as both a destination and a community asset.


The new President has the opportunity to lead an organization with significant assets and enormous potential. The President will be expected to articulate a compelling vision for the future to the Museum’s core audiences, creating enthusiastic support for a clear and focused set of priorities and uniting and inspiring staff and board around ambitious, sustainable goals.

The President will be expected to become active in the Philadelphia community, articulating an agenda and building trust and partnerships. He or she will want to be a politically astute advocate who is comfortable in the civic and political arena. The President is the chief fundraiser and spokesperson for the Museum and must enjoy that visible role.

Internally, the President will need to attend to building renewed commitment and engagement on the part of the Board and staff. S/he will need to rejuvenate a staff that has been depleted by recent events and will need to work with the Board on a continuing basis on governance issues.

Programmatically, the President will be expected to bring fresh ideas and to build on the

Programmatically, the President will be expected to bring fresh ideas and to build on the Museum’s assets, taking advantage of the Museum’s core strengths with a renewed focus on increasing the number of visitors and enhancing the quality of the visitor experience.

The President is the Museum’s chief executive officer, reporting to the Board of Port Wardens through its Chair and responsible for the general and active management of all business of the organization. The President is an ex-officio member of all board committees with the exception that the President is not a member of and does not attend meetings of the audit committee.

Broad objectives for the new president are as follows:

Strategic planning: Working with the Board, address strategic issues facing the Museum, including participation in community planning for Penn’s Landing development and plans for timing and size of the next capital campaign. Review and update the current 2005-2010 strategic plan, in partnership with board and staff.

Programming and exhibits: Implement innovative programming that will attract 21 st century audiences, using a range of approaches and technologies; update and refresh current exhibits; maintain and build the school market in creative ways; expand the use of the Museum as a center for community events.

Financial health: Ensure that the Museum’s sources of income – visitor and member fees, contributions, endowment, foundation and government grants, and store and facility rental revenue – continue to grow as needed to sustain present and expanding exhibits, programs, and outreach. Ensure that the organization attains a balanced operating budget annually without exceeding spending limits on endowment.

Fund raising: Lead the organization’s fund raising, in partnership with an engaged Board, through active and sustained personal efforts and through a well-supported advancement department. (The current Strategic Plan requires raising $2 million annually from contributions and grants by the year 2010, without regard to a specific new capital campaign.)

Staff excellence: Attract, develop, and retain the strongest possible talent. Ensure that the organizational structure and staff roles align with strategic direction. Foster communication, collaboration and unity of purpose among staff and promote a climate where professionals will flourish.

Board relations: Partner with, cultivate and engage the Museum’s Board members for policy leadership and fundraising support. Communicate effectively and regularly with board members and increase opportunities for Board and staff to work together through planning processes and committee structures.

• External relations : Develop positive working relationships with a range of public officials, scholars,

External relations: Develop positive working relationships with a range of public officials, scholars, museum colleagues and other community leaders, reinforcing the contribution the Museum currently makes to the community and remaining open to new possibilities for community leadership. Seek opportunities for the Museum to participate in planning for the development of the Penn’s Landing area. Work to create strategic collaborations with other organizations in the maritime and broader museum community. Continue to build public awareness nationally. Be sensitive to and appreciative of the diverse cultures of the region.

Operations: Ensure that the operations and programs of the Museum are well-managed and professionally conducted. This includes all the Museum’s human assets of staff, volunteers and supporters; as well as its physical assets of collections, exhibits, building, boats, and endowment.

Volunteer excellence: Effectively communicate with volunteers. Engage the volunteers with increased opportunities to contribute to activities vital to the Museum’s success.


This important role calls for a leader with optimism, integrity and vision who values the maritime history of the Delaware Valley region and will foster a culture of excellence for the institution. The position calls for proven strategic planning and management skills coupled with the ability to represent the organization effectively to external constituencies. Fund raising ability and marketing acumen are essential.

The ideal candidate would bring the following professional qualifications and personal qualities:

Professional Qualifications

Senior level executive experience in an organization of similar size and complexity.

Demonstrated experience managing people, budgets and operations.

be a museum or not-for-profit that is known for its excellence, but this is a flexible requirement.

This may well

Indications of a love for the history and culture of geographic places that can be transferred to the Delaware Valley region. Knowledge of maritime history, seamanship, or the history and culture of the region – either through professional or personal connections – is preferred.

Demonstrated skill for representing an institution to a wide range of audiences and

Political acumen and ease in the civic

marketing programs or services successfully. arena.

• Experience working with a vol unteer board of directors. • Evidence of having taken

Experience working with a volunteer board of directors.

Evidence of having taken action to build an organization, and having been a creative thinker and problem-solver.

Demonstrated success in raising funds from a variety of sources and, without question, a willingness and appetite for fund development.

A record of success in collaborations with peer institutions and community partners.

An advanced degree in a related field is preferred.

Personal Characteristics

Public presence and energy. Very strong communication skills and the ability to enlist others to share in a vision.

Integrity, intelligence and a sense of humor.

Excellent judgment, follow-through, and decision-making skills.

Strong team-building skills. The ability to mentor and motivate as well as to delegate and empower others to succeed.

Outstanding interpersonal skills to work effectively with a wide variety of people at all levels. The ability to listen.


Inquiries, nominations and applications should be directed in confidence to:

Sheryl Ash, Vice President & Director or Martha Brest, Managing Associate Isaacson, Miller 334 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02116


Electronic submission of materials is strongly encouraged.

The Independence Seaport Museum is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse pool of applicants in this search.