The Douglas Henry State Museum Commission announced that during its meeting Tuesday a selection was made to offer the position of executive director of the Tennessee State Museum. The selection was made by the Museum Commission after meeting and interviewing with two finalists, after which there was a discussion and a vote by the Commission members who were present for the meeting.
The position will be offered to native Tennessean Ashley Howell, who currently serves as deputy director of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Ms. Howell is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and has advanced degrees from that institution as well as Boston University. She has had an impressive career in the museum field, officials said.
“The State Museum Commission conducted an exhaustive national search working in partnership with the Tennessee Dept. of Human Resources and the executive search firm of Carter Baldwin, Atlanta,” said Commission Chairman Tom Smith. “I believe most if not all of the Museum Commission members were very impressed by the selection of candidates presented. We are looking forward to continued discussions with Mrs. Howell and hopefully the Department of Human Resources will be able to reach an agreement with her to join us.”
The Tennessee State Museum was established by law in 1937 “to bring together the various collections of articles, specimens, and relics now owned by the State under one divisional head,” and “to provide for a transfer of exhibits wherever they may be.”
Today, the Tennessee State Museum is housed in the James K. Polk building in downtown Nashville, where it has been for nearly 35 years. Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $120 million in the FY-2015-16 budget to build a new home for the Tennessee State Museum on the Bicentennial Mall to maximize the state’s rich history by creating a state-of-the-art educational asset and tourist attraction for the state. The governor also announced that $40 million would be raised in private funds for the project.
A new and dynamic 140,000 square foot facility to house the State Museum is currently under construction on the northwest corner of the Bicentennial Mall at the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street. It is being built to continue to tell Tennessee’s story in a way that the museum is unable to do in its current and outdated location by showcasing one-of-a-kind artifacts, art and historical documents in an interactive and engaging way.