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New director for maritime museum

Monday, March 26th 2018

New director for maritime museum

Penobscot Marine Museum, a history and arts museum with nationally-recognized collections, has hired Karen E. Smith, Ph.D., as its new executive director. Smith will join the museum from the Cedar Falls (Iowa) Historical Society, where she served as executive director for six years.

While at the Cedar Falls Historical Society, Smith led work to define the society’s strategic vision, developed new public programs, built partnerships with other community organizations, created more hands-on opportunities, and refreshed their brand and marketing. Prior to joining the historical Society, Smith worked at the Iowa Governor’s Residence as a curatorial research assistant, and at the Old Capitol Museum and the Obermann Center, also in Iowa. She previously was a college instructor in writing and rhetoric, and was a volunteer manager and coordinator for a large social services agency.

Smith obtained her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Iowa in 2011. She has a B.A. in English from Earlham College in Indiana. Smith grew up in Marion, Massachusetts, and has family in Maine and New England.

“After a thorough and deliberate national search process, the Board of Trustees is delighted that Karen will lead our cherished Museum as we adapt to changing interests and needs of our visitors, and to rapid advancements in technology that can enhance public access to our nationally-recognized collections,” said Stephen J. Tall, president of the marine museum's board. “Karen brings many years’ experience successfully growing the Cedar Falls Historical Society, when it had opportunities and challenges similar to ours. I am confident Karen is the right person at the right time to take the helm and lead our crew.”

With twelve historic buildings, including a furnished ship captain’s home, housed on its Searsport campus, The Penobscot Marine Museum brings Maine maritime history to life. Exhibits include hands-on activities for children and adults, marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, paintings and textiles, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom vegetable garden. The museum has over 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library.

This summer’s exhibit will focus on ship models and their uses. A model pond will provide opportunities to sail and race models. Check the website for daily activities and events. The Museum is open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third weekend in October. PMM’s Visitor Center is located at 2 Church Street, Searsport, Maine. For more information visit

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