WILLIAMSBURG, Va. —As part of a streamlining of its leadership team, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has named Ghislain d’Humières as its executive director and senior vice president, core operations, a newly created position that will report to President and CEO Mitchell B. Reiss.
In this new role, d’Humières will carry out the vision of Reiss and the Foundation’s Board of Trustees to attract new audiences, engage and entertain guests and instill a lifelong love of Colonial Williamsburg and its enduring role in the American story. d’Humières will oversee the Collections, Conservation and Museums Division and Colonial Williamsburg’s Education, Research and Historical Interpretation Division, as well as its Strategic Communications and Development divisions. He will begin his new role on January 15, 2018.
“Colonial Williamsburg’s commitment to history education and the arts is strong,” said Reiss. “We believe that hiring a seasoned arts professional to lead the Foundation’s core experience will further enhance our ability to captivate visitors through even more engaging programming within the Historic Area and the Art Museums. Ghislain’s leadership of day-to-day operations will enable me to foster critical relationships with the community, supporters and other partners to elevate Colonial Williamsburg and its mission to share America’s enduring story.”
Most recently the director and CEO of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2013 to earlier this year, d’Humières oversaw an extensive $60 million renovation that transformed the state’s only fine arts museum and enabled it to further expand its audience’s diversity. Previously, he served as the director and chief curator of the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman from 2007-2013; he has also held positions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions. d’Humières is a former member of the French armed forces and served as aide-de-camp to the grand chancelier of the Order de La Libération. He was also an assistant curator of Paris’ Ordre de La Libération Museum. He is a graduate of the Sorbonne and Paris Nanterre University.
“Colonial Williamsburg is a treasure that preserves the birthplace of American democracy and enshrines ideals that still guide the nation and world,” d’Humières said. “I am honored to join this institution, especially amid its re-imagination and commitment to engage new and wider audiences. I look forward to sharing the journey with the team, our community, and most of all, our guests.”
Among key areas of the Foundation that will now be included under d’Humières’ umbrella of responsibilities are major areas of investments in the Campaign for History and Citizenship, the $600 million capital campaign initiated to both reinforce and reimagine Colonial Williamsburg’s role in the 21st century as a leader in history education and historical preservation, which was publicly announced in 2014. One such area is the $41.7-million donor-funded expansion of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, home of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the oldest continuously operating institution in the United States dedicated solely to the collection, exhibition and preservation of American folk art now celebrating its 60th anniversary.
It is also home to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, which marked its 30th anniversary in 2015 and features premier examples of British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670-1840. Combined, these diverse and extensive collections play critical roles in Colonial Williamsburg’s goal of engaging audiences with the dramatic story of America’s founding.
Under the direction of Ronald L. Hurst, Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums, both the Abby Aldrich and DeWitt Wallace museums will remain open through construction, which began on Oct. 1. It will add 60,000 square feet to the building for a 22-percent increase in gallery space, as well as significantly improve public access through a new visitor-friendly entrance and other enhancements. It is projected that by late summer 2018 the enlarged space will be completely enclosed and new climate control systems will be fully functioning. Construction is expected to be complete by late 2019.
Other vital areas of the Foundation’s mission that also are within d’Humières’ area of responsibility include:
- Continued re-imagination of Historic Area programming with diverse, new character interpretation and technology enhancements, including the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer mobile app; supervising 24 historic trades, modern entertainment and tours, signature events (such as Grand Illumination and Fourth of July), the Costume Design Center that crafts and maintains clothing worn by the Historic Area personnel, the Coach and Livestock department that operates the Rare Breeds Program, and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums
- Development of compelling outreach programs that reach national and even global audiences, including teacher professional development programs and digital technology initiatives in order for Colonial Williamsburg to continue to support and supplement the teaching of American history and civics in home and school settings
- Directing historical research and training, along with the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library and the Colonial Williamsburg corporate archives
- Oversight of the departments that conduct archaeological research and care for the more than 60 million archaeological items in the Foundation’s collections
- Leadership of the departments that preserve 88 original and roughly 500 reconstructed Historic Area structures, as well as daily care of Historic Area interiors and collection items on display throughout Colonial Williamsburg properties
- Management of Colonial Williamsburg’s state-of-the-art DeWitt Wallace Collections and Conservation Building, which includes eight discipline-specific labs—Archaeological Materials, Wooden Artifacts, Instruments and Mechanical Arts, Objects, Paintings, Paper, Textiles and Upholstery—as well as the Preventive Conservation group. There, analysis, examination, treatment, and documentation are performed in strict accordance with the Code of Ethics of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works.