New Leadership for UMW Museums

David Berreth’s retirement after 27 years as the Director of Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont provided an opportunity to examine UMW’s approach to the general management and strategic direction of its two museums – Belmont and the James Monroe Museum and Library. To streamline reporting structures, and maximize the effectiveness of both museums in delivering their programming, a new organizational structure will go into place in January.

Scott Harris, currently Director of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, has been named Executive Director of University Museums. In his new role,  Scott will provide strategic direction and will oversee all aspects of the Gari Melchers Home and Studio and the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. Scott will also oversee the on-going activities of Dan Preston and his staff on the Papers of James Monroe project (work that is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities).

Day-to-day operations at Belmont will be directed by Joanna Catron, Assistant Director and Curator at the Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna has capably served as the interim director at Belmont since David Berreth’s retirement last June and we want to commend her and thank her for her continued efforts – especially as we  have been transitioning to this new structure. The 18th-century Belmont estate in Stafford County, Virginia became the home of internationally-acclaimed artist Gari Melchers (1860-1932) and his wife Corinne Mackall Melchers (1880-1955) in 1916.  The property and a collection of some 2,000 works of art by Melchers and other artists was bequeathed to the Commonwealth of Virginia by Corinne Melchers.  A National Historic Landmark administered by the University, the Gari Melchers Home and Studio opened to the public in 1975.

Jarod Kearney, Assistant Director and Curator at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, will provide the similar day-to-day management of that Museum. Founded in 1927 by Monroe descendants on the traditional site of their ancestor’s law office, the James Monroe Museum is the largest collection of artifacts and archives related to James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth president of the United States.  The museum is also a National Historic Landmark and has been administered by the University of Mary Washington since 1964.

The goal of the Papers of James Monroe project is to publish a scholarly collection of selected letters and papers documenting Monroe’s life and career.  Ten volumes are planned. Volume Six, covering April 1811 to March 1814, was published earlier this year.

This reorganization provides a framework for better coordination between the two museums and will enhance the development of programmatic connections between the museums and other University departments and academic programs. This change also creates the potential for seeking external grant support, and will strengthen the promotion of the two museums as vital and important members of our academic and cultural programs.

Scott Harris is a Mary Washington College alumnus, graduating in 1983 with honors in history and historic preservation. He holds a master’s degree in History and Museum Administration from The College of William and Mary. He came to UMW in July 2011, after ten years as Director of the New Market (Virginia) Battlefield State Historical Park.


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