STURBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to extend to 2014 the contract of the living history museum's president and chief executive officer, Jim Donahue, of Cranston, R.I., citing Donahue’s leadership as the driving force behind the museum’s strong gains in attendance, education field trips, and donations. The American history museum is on track for another record performance, with year-to-date attendance currently up 9 percent.
Since his hiring in 2007, Donahue has reversed decades of declining visitation at Old Sturbridge Village, posted two straight years of attendance gains, increased donations by 25 percent, and balanced the museum’s operating budget for the first time in more than 10 years.
The museum’s turnaround under Donahue’s guidance is remarkable because it has come during the worst economy in 70 years, when many non-profits closed their doors. According to the American Association of Museums (AAM), OSV is bucking the trend for non-profits in such a weak economy. By contrast, more than two-thirds of the country’s museums experienced financial stress in 2009, according to a recent AAM survey.
Old Sturbridge Village’s attendance gains are the latest in a series of encouraging developments, which included two record-breaking days for single-day attendance posted in August, increased education field trips, and a special event earlier this year honoring Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who made his first film about OSV.
Former Old Sturbridge Village Board Chairman Bruce Moir, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, who hired Donahue in 2007, cites key decisions made then that have cemented the museum’s success today. “We wanted a CEO from outside the museum world – someone with strong financial and fund-raising experience, coupled with a passion for the Village’s mission. Jim has all of these talents, plus a strong background in education.”
With an economics degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Donahue began his career in banking, but switched to education after discovering a passion for teaching. Prior to joining OSV, Donahue was CEO of the Bradford Dunn Institute for Learning Differences in Providence, Rhode Island, and founded Highlander Charter School.
To engineer the Old Sturbridge Village turnaround, Donahue focused on trimming expenses, improving the visitor experience, and expanding the museum's front-line staff of historians in costume. “Visitors today want to be part of the action,” Donahue says. “That’s why our interactive experiences at the Village, like talking with costumed historians and riding the stagecoach, are so memorable.”
"When Jim came to OSV three years ago we were facing a serious financial challenge. Thanks to Jim's vision, leadership and skill as our CEO, an incredible turnaround has occurred," notes Mike Brockelman, of Holden, Massachusetts, current chairman of the Old Sturbridge Village Board of Trustees. "We still have a lot to do and we could not imagine accomplishing our remaining goals without Jim. That is why we are delighted that he agreed to extend his contract with us to 2014."
Old Sturbridge Village depicts early New England life in the 1830s and is famous for its historians in costume. It is one of the oldest and largest living history museums in the country, and is one of New England’s top tourist attractions. For details: www.osv.org; 1-800-SEE-1830; www.facebook.com/sturbridge.
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