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Leadership Transition at the Wilson Museum
CASTINE--Wilson Museum Executive Director Patricia Hutchins has announced that she will retire at the end of September 2021, following the Museum’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Patty’s work at the Museum began as a volunteer in 1975, helping to prepare the John and Phebe Perkins House for the United States’ Bicentennial summer. “Ellenore [Doudiet, daughter of Museum founder J. Howard Wilson] asked me to outfit the guides and blacksmith with costumes appropriate to the period of the house/blacksmith shop,” she says. “These were all sewn by hand. She also asked me to learn to spin, weave, and demonstrate fireside cooking. This was a time when few people in the area were spinning and weaving . . . and, surely not cooking on the hearth. I oversaw the guides each summer over the next ten years as well as demonstrating colonial living skills.” She was hired full time in 1985, and since that time has filled many roles from docent to curator, becoming executive director in 2004.
During her tenure as director, Patty has overseen strategic expansion of the Museum’s spaces and programs, including creation of the Hutchins Education Center and the movement of the Blacksmith Shop and Firefighting Exhibit across Perkins Street to create a full campus experience. She has also worked closely with Museum trustees, staff, and community members to add a Wood Shop where woodturning demonstrations are held and more recently a Boatbuilding Shop and Antique Boats exhibit.
The newest addition to the campus is the Perkins Gallery and Museum Store, in a beautifully renovated space in the basement of the historic Perkins House, for new exhibits and an expanded museum shop. The Perkins Gallery opened to the public in summer 2019, and features the exhibit “Building a Community in Township #3,” with tools, artifacts, and stories of the earliest European settlers of the area called Majabigwaduce, now the towns of Castine, Penobscot, and Brooksville. The exhibit also includes a Perkins family tree mural, painted by Patty.
As the Museum has grown, Patty has created new programs, curated exhibits, managed collections, researched items in the Museum’s collection, and much more. She continues to engage visitors through demonstrations of fireside and outdoor cooking, and leading tours of the Perkins House--bringing the spaces, tools, and practices of the past to life. One of the programs she created, “Maja Trivia,” a popular “Jeopardy”-style quiz game focused on local and Maine history, engages 5th through 8th graders from Castine, Penobscot, and Brooksville and culminates in a final competition at the Museum.
Patty’s husband, Sherman Hutchins, and many other members of her family have also been closely involved with the Museum. Sherm managed buildings and grounds for the Museum for many years, and worked with his father, Hoyt Hutchins, on the dismantling and re-building of the Perkins House in the 1960s and early 1970s. Their daughter Joyce and granddaughters Grace and Ellenore have also been vital to the life and offerings of the museum, from giving demonstrations and tours to educational programs for children and adults to preparing outstanding food for museum events.
Over the next two years, Patty plans to gradually transition some of her responsibilities to other staff members, and to focus on key projects including a Perkins House cookbook and updated history of the Wilson Museum. The succession plan for the Museum’s leadership includes plenty of time for a new director to overlap with Patty so that she can pass on as much of her knowledge and experience as possible.
The Wilson Museum Board of Trustees has formed a leadership transition committee and started the process of searching for a new director. They will conduct a community survey to gather feedback and learn about what Museum members, friends, supporters, and the Castine community would like to see in the Museum’s future.