HSP President Kim Sajet Named Director of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kim Sajet, currently president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), has been appointed director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, effective April 1.

As president of HSP since 2007, Sajet developed a strategic plan around the concept of a Center for History and Learning and launched two new departments: the Digital Center for Americana, which to date has posted more than 65,000 images online, and the History Affiliates, which supports more than 340 history and heritage organizations in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I am extremely proud of what HSP has achieved in the past six years,” said Sajet. “The board and staff have worked as a team to expand our impact both on site and online. We now have active patrons who come from every state in the Union and more than 23 countries, and we have diversified the type of people who use the collection in terms of age, race, ethnicity, and interest. I look forward to hearing about all the great things HSP will do in the future, and know that it will always have a place in my heart.”

Sajet’s last day at HSP will be March 28. At HSP, Sajet focused on the realm of new media, having developed two websites, a social communication program that currently attracts more than 15,000 e-subscribers, and three digital document transcription projects. During the past six years, Sajet raised $15 million for building renovation, endowments, special collection and public-program projects, acquisitions, and annual operating funds.

“During her nearly six years as President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Kim provided exceptional leadership and vision,” said Bruce Fenton, chairman of the HSP Board of Councilors. “She, along with the HSP Board and staff, crafted a forward-thinking strategic plan to ensure that our world renowned collection was more accessible to our varied constituents. Kim was successful in expanding our audience through the use of technology, new media, innovative programming, and improved on-site services. She was a tireless advocate for history and cultural organizations throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond the Delaware Valley. We thank her for the tremendous job she has done at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and we wish her well in her new position as Director of the National Portrait Gallery.”

“HSP will rely on its talented staff and its dedicated and experienced Board in following its longstanding succession plan guidelines in order to ensure that HSP has the effective leadership and stability it needs during this time of transition, putting HSP in a solid position pending the launch of a search for a new President and CEO.”

The National Portrait Gallery, administered by the Smithsonian Institution, and established by Congress in 1962, displays images of the “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the United States.” Highlights of the collection and exhibitions include the famous “cracked plate” photograph of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, taken several months before his assassination in 1865; the “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart; the permanent “America’s Presidents” exhibition; and thousands of artworks depicting influential Americans from baseball players to leaders of the civil rights movements. The museum most recently commissioned a portrait of Gen. Colin Powell, which was unveiled in December 2012.

“Kim is a solid manager who blends extensive art expertise with business and fundraising acumen,” said Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian. “I think her hands-on leadership style and her curatorial expertise in art and history make her the perfect person to lead the National Portrait Gallery.”

“The National Portrait Gallery has a unique role to play in recognizing the extraordinary people who have shaped America’s identity while inspiring the next generation to recognize that they have within them all the ingredients to become leaders in their own right,” said Sajet. “I look forward to working across disciplines, fostering collaborations nationally and internationally, and testing the definitions of visual biography.”

At the National Portrait Gallery, Sajet will oversee a staff of 65 with an annual federal budget of about $9 million (fiscal year 2013) and a collection of about 21,000 objects. The museum’s mission is to inspire visitors from around the world through visual arts, performing arts, and new media that connect people and their stories to the American experience.

Prior to her time at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Sajet was senior vice president and deputy director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and school in the country, for seven years. From 1998 until 2001, Sajet served as director of corporate relations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and served first as curator and then the director of two Australian art museums from 1989 until 1995. Sajet has served on numerous arts and culture boards and currently holds a seat on the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Mayor of Philadelphia’s Cultural Advisory boards.

Sajet earned a master’s degree in art history at Bryn Mawr College; a master’s degree in business administration at Melbourne University Business School in Australia; a bachelor’s degree, also in art history, at Melbourne University; and a graduate diploma in Museum Studies from Deakin University in Australia. She has completed arts leadership training at the Harvard Business School, the Getty, and National Arts Strategies. Born in Nigeria, she was raised in Australia and is a citizen of the Netherlands. She also speaks Dutch and French.

Sajet will succeed Wendy Wick Reaves, a curator at the National Portrait Gallery who has served as interim director since June 2012 when Martin Sullivan stepped down after four years as director.

 

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