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Executive Director

Portsmouth Historical Society

The Portsmouth Historical Society (PHS)  began in 1917 with the preservation of the historic John Paul Jones House Museum and Garden. In 2008, PHS expanded across the street, leasing the former Portsmouth Public Library building from the city. This structure houses PHS’s offices and provides a tourist welcome center and museum shop, as well as gallery spaces for art and cultural exhibitions and education programs. PHS also rents space to two other organizations. 

The Portsmouth Historical Society has grown from two staff members and a small working board to eleven professional staff, five seasonal staff, and a year-round governing board. PHS houses a varied collection of art and artifacts that tell stories of the community’s past. The Society promotes historic preservation throughout the city. It is also the only Portsmouth organization presenting contemporary history, culture, and the arts. Open to the public from April through December, PHS has many strong programs including daily walking tours, third-grade history programs, annual awards recognizing Portsmouth’s unique heritage and character, and professionally curated and designed exhibitions and publications. PHS is also the hub of visitor services for Portsmouth. It serves 30,000 people annually and has more than 500 members.

PHS has come through the pandemic as a vital organization serving an ever-broadening audience. The Society is looking to expand and diversify its financial base. PHS is largely dependent on annual contributions and earnings; thus cash flow, especially in the off-season of January through March, is a challenge. The board is seeking a director with the vision and experience to clarify and focus the organization’s mission and programs. A strategic plan now in the late stages of development will be a key resource in addressing this task. The 2022 spring exhibition, Imagine That! The Power of Picture Books, features original artwork by renowned New England illustrators and will attract children and families.

• Play a key role in making a vital organization stable and sustainable.
• Pull a dedicated, capable staff and board into a high-functioning organization.
• Work in a vibrant community boasting many historic and cultural organizations and individuals with which to collaborate.
• Live in a region with a wealth of historical resources and in a small city conveniently located near larger urban areas, the ocean, and the White Mountains.

Strong points
• Portsmouth is an affluent area that attracts both national and international tourists year-round.
• PHS occupies a prominent location downtown and includes a welcome center for national and international visitors that draws people who might not otherwise visit exhibitions.
• Talented and committed staff looking for clarity, energy, and leadership.
• Dedicated board members offering diverse backgrounds who support operations with expertise and funds.
• Established community collaborators include multiple Portsmouth-based historic sites, the African American cultural community, and historic preservation advocates.
• PHS has developed a good base of established programs for local and regional audiences, including both adults and children.


• Master’s degree in museum studies focused on public history, preservation studies, or art history; or a degree in public history, nonprofit management or related field; or the equivalent in education and experience.

• At least three to five years of experience directing a museum or cultural nonprofit organization.

• Understanding of museum standards and practices via education and/or experience.

• A record of successful fundraising from individuals, businesses, and granting entities.

• Proven skills in financial and personnel management.

• Knowledge of historic preservation is valuable; commitment to it essential.

• Demonstrated capacity as an outgoing relationship-builder. The new Executive Director will enjoy being the public face of the museum and will seek opportunities for partnerships with area arts, cultural, and environmental organizations and other educational institutions.

  • A dynamic leader both internally, with staff and board, and externally, with organizational partners, museum members, and the Seacoast community.
  • Concrete evidence of raising money and managing finances and operations, with a record of achieving objectives.
  • Proven history of building consensus/camaraderie among staff and board.
  • Facilitator, organizer, accomplisher who keeps the big picture in mind.
  • Leads a team of dedicated professionals, setting the course and ensuring progress toward common goals without micromanaging.
  • Communicates frequently with staff and board; rolls up sleeves to share load when needed.
  • Participates in the community, becoming the recognized face of the organization.
  • Builds awareness and alliances among broad communities including educational, historical, and cultural institutions.
  • Committed to a major, active role in fundraising in collaboration with development staff and board.
  • Open-minded and comfortable with managing the challenges local historical organizations face.
  • A lifelong learner who will enjoy gaining expertise in Portsmouth history
  • Find a stable, sustainable financial operating model to augment annual earned and contributed income
  • Guide completion and implementation of a strategic plan, building consensus on PHS’s identity and its relative investment in different assets and programs
  • Determine how to utilize a recently bequeathed historic building, property, and funds for the greatest long-term impact and benefit.
How to Apply:

Applications accepted between January 10 and February 20, 2022
Via email to:
Or: ED Search, Portsmouth Historical Society, 10 Middle Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Salary Range:

$68,000 - $72,000

Job Location:


Date Added: January 9, 2022

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