Long-Time Museum Director Retires After Twenty Years at the Helm

Long-time Maine State Museum Director Announces Retirement

Joseph R. Phillips to Leave his Post in Spring 2012


Joseph R. Phillips, director of the Maine State Museum, has announced his intention to retire from his position in the spring of 2012.

The Maine State Museum Commission will commence a national search for a replacement with the goal of selecting a successor by the time Phillips retires in order to assure continuity of leadership. The views of a wide cross-section of the scientific, historic and cultural affairs community on a successor will be sought during the search process.

"J.R. will have completed twenty years of service upon his retirement next year," said Museum Commission Chairman Charles J. Micoleau. "During his tenure, the State Museum has become recognized as a major institution for collaborative efforts in education, history and science." Among the museum's major achievements under his leadership are: conservation of Maine's entire collection of fragile military flags and the extensive State House Portrait Collection; excavation of New England's first English settlement, the 1607-08 Popham Colony at Fort St. George in Phippsburg; greatly strengthening the museum's natural science program; and construction of the 5,600 square foot "At Home in Maine" exhibit on domestic life.

Throughout a period of state budget cuts and staff layoffs, Phillips lead alternative efforts to maintain the excellence of museum programs through establishment of a non-profit Friends organization, a membership program, enhanced volunteer and internship programs, enlarged Museum Store, active staff solicitation of foundation grants, and endowments for artifact purchase and conservation.

Asked to name his greatest contribution Phillips said, "It has to be my passion for open collaboration with my colleagues. Museum staff members are extraordinarily gifted but there are too few for the responsibilities legislated to them, so we work with others to get everything done." Examples he cited include the joint purchase with other museums of important artifacts to keep them in Maine, close coordination with legislative staff in the world's first relocation of full-size wildlife dioramas, and the dedication of experts who assemble each year for "Bug Maine-ia" and "Earth Science Day", Maine's largest science education events.

"After twenty years I am ready for my next adventure," Phillips said, "but it will be hard to top excavating a woolly mammoth, helping stop the illegal salvage of a Royal Navy fighter plane or co-producing history programs with MPBN when we won an 'Emmy'!"

The Maine State Museum is the only major state-owned museum in New England. In recognition of its professional excellence, the Maine State Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums for nearly four decades.