Open Position: Museum Director and Senior Curator
Location: Tallahatchie County, MS
Compensation: $60,000 annually plus benefits
“Rosa said she thought about going to the back of the bus. But then she thought about Emmett Till and she couldn’t do it.”
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center is seeking nominations and applications for a Museum Director and Senior Curator to steward the museum into the next phase of its evolution. The Museum Director and Senior Curator will have creative license to design and implement new exhibits, build volunteer docent staff, and partner with national advisors on the expansion and development of national programs.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center, located in Sumner, Mississippi exists to tell the story of the Emmett Till tragedy and to point a way towards racial healing. Specifically, the Center uses arts and storytelling to help process past pain and to imagine new ways of moving forward. The next five years will be a period of rapid growth for the ETIC across all program areas, including and especially the Museum. Currently, the Museum is a small, regional attraction with 3,500 square feet and three full-time staff members. As the Center grows, the board is seeking a Museum Director and Senior Curator with the artistic vision and historical insight to curate exhibits and collections that leverage beauty, innovation, and design to transport visitors back to the summer of 1955 when 14-year-old Emmett Till visited Sumner, Mississippi and became the spark who ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
Reporting to the Executive Director, the Museum Director and Senior Curator will oversee all operations for the Museum in the Mississippi Delta; serve as the senior designer and curator of all museum exhibits and programming; maintain and build community engagement and partnerships; advise the Board, Till family and other senior leaders on the execution of the national strategic plan; and partner with the ED on fundraising and development.
Success in this role requires an educational background in fine arts, museum studies, art history, or American Studies, with demonstrated expertise and focus in African American History, the American South, the African Diaspora, anthropology, and/or Black studies. The new Museum Director and Senior Curator will have experience in museum management and operations (including recruiting and training volunteers) and understand the unique challenges associated with expanding and enhancing small- to medium-sized programs. They will value and understand the relationship between visual art, material culture, artifacts, installations, storytelling, oral traditions, Black American musical traditions, narrative design, and other art forms to engage visitors in an interactive experience that combines truth-telling and healing. They will treat the stories of Black America with reverence and respect, hope, and love.
The Ideal Candidate
The ideal candidate will be, first and foremost, committed to the mission of Emmett Till Interpretive Center and have deep care and compassion for the people and cultures of Mississippi & Illinois. They will be interested in truth-telling and racial healing and believe in the power of art to transform hearts and minds. They will be a servant leader who operates with humility, understands how to enter the community and will be eager to engage existing leaders in the Mississippi Delta and Chicago as they initiate this new phase of the ETIC. They will also be a life-long learner who is innovative, creative, thoughtful, courageous and sincere. Given the nature of this work and the focus of the ETIC, candidates who identify as Black American, with professional and/or personal ties to the Deep South or Midwest are especially encouraged to apply. This role requires that the Senior Curator live in or near Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and be willing to travel to Chicago to meet with the Till family and other ETIC partners.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center was the vision of the late Jerome G. Little, the first African-American President of the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors. For more than 50 years, the town of Sumner and the surrounding area tried to bury the memory of Emmett Till with the hope that the incident would fade. Thanks to the work of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission and invested community activists, the memory of Emmett Till has burgeoned and taken on a pivotal role in the quest for racial justice in America.
In 2006, Supervisor Little organized the Emmett Till Memorial Commission. The ETMC, made up of a multi-racial group of citizens, realized that to properly remember and honor Emmett Till, they needed to first break the silence and take responsibility for their role in the injustice. In 2007, the ETMC offered a formal apology and delivered the apology to the Till family in a public ceremony in front of the Sumner Courthouse.
The ETMC knew that the apology would be meaningless without action. Over eight years, the organization worked across racial lines to restore the Sumner Courthouse to its condition during the 1955 trial of Emmett Till’s murderers and to create an Emmett Till museum to live out the first line of the apology, which reads, "Racial Reconciliation begins by telling the truth."
Learn more about the work of Emmett Till Interpretive Center:
Responsibilities of the Senior Curator
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center receives over 3,000 visitors a year and is a critical institution for the local and national community. The Center currently maintains several collaborative opportunities for community members, including a summer youth filmmaking workshop and a partnership with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The new Museum Director and Senior Curator will have the opportunity to grow these current partnerships while also developing new relationships throughout the community.
Reporting to the Board and partnering closely with the Executive Director, the new Museum Director and Senior Curator will take on the following responsibilities:
Oversee all operations for the Museum in collaboration with ETIC sites in and around the Mississippi Delta
Recruit, train and manage volunteer staff and docents to welcome and steward visitors through the Museum
Support the Executive Director as a thought leader on the ongoing strategy to engage the Emmett Till narrative in Mississippi and Chicago
Work in partnership with the Public Engagement and Museum Education Director to develop in-depth tours of the Emmett Till sites.
Manage the operations budget and museum strategy so that they align with the community and national strategies
Serve as the senior designer and curator of all museum exhibits and programming
Collaborate with the Executive Director, Till family and Board to design a creative direction of the ETIC
Inventory and archive all aspects of the existing museum exhibits and programs
Collaborate with current museum partners to maintain the development of traveling exhibits
Curate artifacts, exhibits, collections and programs that detail and elaborate on the story of Emmett Till
Collaborate with the Executive Director on fundraising
Partner with the ED to maintain and develop new funding relationships
Write or collaborate on grant proposals for local community programming.
Respond to RFPs and find creative ways to generate income through ticket sales and the creation of a bookstore/gift shop
Maintain and build community engagement and partnerships
Partner with local school systems, activists, and organizations to deepen community engagement with the museum
Collaborate with the Museum Advisory Committee to ensure the development of all museum programs and exhibits align with the long-term strategy of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission
Build an education program that aligns with local school curricula
Advise the Board, Till family and other senior leaders on the implementation of the national strategic plan
Partner with the museum advisory committee and advancement team to build a strategy to maintain and initiate relationships with regional and national philanthropies
Collaborate with the Executive Director to ensure the development of the museum aligns with the development of all Emmett Till commemorative sites.
The ideal candidate will bring most of the following qualities to the role:
An academic background that balances African American History, the Deep South (USA), the African Diaspora, anthropology, the Modern Civil Rights Movement, and/or Black studies or a similar discipline with Museum studies, fine arts, heritage studies, history, or similar field
Experience in museum management and operations (including recruiting and training volunteers)
Curatorial and or archival experience with broad and deep expertise in narrative design, material culture, artifact preservation, storytelling and related skills
Experience with small- to medium-sized museum programs
Experience building community partnerships and excellent interpersonal skills that will facilitate relationships with key community stakeholders
A nuanced and tested commitment to racial justice in all contexts
A nuanced understanding of the cultures of the Deep South, including but not limited to, grassroots organizing, faith-based leadership traditions, oral traditions, and Black American migration patterns
Lived experience as a Black American with professional experiences and/or personal experiences in the American South
Jamie Joanou and Erica Nicole Griffin of Monday Morning Consultants are supporting the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in their search for a Museum Director and Senior Curator. Please submit a resume and personal statement to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 3, 2021. If you have questions or nominations, please reach out to EricaNicole@MondayMorningConsultants.com or JJoanou@gmail.com.
Salary and Compensation
This is a full-time role and requires that the Museum Director and Senior Curator live in or near Tallahatchie County. They must also be willing to travel to Chicago to consult with the Till family and Board. ETIC will support the successful candidate with relocation expenses if necessary. Full-time compensation is $60,000 annually, plus benefits.