Friday, May 20, 2011

SMA's Board President wins national award

Honor Recognizes Excellence by a Museum Professional
With Less Than 10 Years Experience 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 9, 2011) The American Association of Museums (AAM) today announced that Mike DiPaolo, executive director of the Lewes (Del.) Historical Society (LHS) is the recipient of its 2011 Nancy Hanks Memorial Award for Professional Excellence, honoring a museum professional with less than 10 years experience in the field. DiPaolo will receive his award during the general session of the AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo™ in Houston on Wednesday, May 25th at 10:30 A.M..

DiPaolo became the LHS’s first full-time executive director in 2001, and since then the group’s membership has grown to more than 1,000 and its revenues increased more than five-fold. Under DiPaolo’s stewardship, the society’s facilities have undergone a major re-design, the number of exhibits has expanded dramatically and the society’s profile within the state and beyond has increased markedly. On the last point, DiPaolo’s communications initiatives have incorporated social media, publications and numerous public events to acquaint the community and state elected officials with the historical significance of Lewes, the first Dutch settlement in Delaware. And all of this was achieved with a full-time staff of two, including DiPaolo.

One of DiPaolo’s signature achievements came in 2006, on the 375th anniversary of the first Lewes settlement. The LHS staged a ceremonial session of the Delaware General Assembly, a body that had met in Lewes in 1780-81.

“Mike DiPaolo has re-confirmed one enduring truth in the museum field: that one person, with energy and drive and imagination, can turn a modest institution into a major one,” said AAM Board Chair Douglas Myers. “His achievements in Lewes are emblematic of a museum leader’s commitment to education and community engagement, and that success in these areas only leads to more success and a wider impact.”

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, the Lewes Historical Society now welcomes more than 80,000 visitors annually, making the LHS among the most-visited museum in the state. These visitors come for year-round programs that include exhibitions, tours and events.  The society holds a collection of 10,000 objects, ranging from fine art to decorative arts, large industrial items and small maritime vessels.

“Mike DiPaolo’s work is a prime example of the challenges many small museum leaders face daily,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “Such individuals provide the vision for their institutions, while also acting as fundraiser-in-chief, collections manager, exhibit creator and designer and chief communications officer, among many other roles. Mr. DiPaolo has excelled in all these capacities, and the chief beneficiaries of his efforts are the people of Lewes and of Delaware.”

DiPaolo began his career in Lewes in 2001, and seems to have found a niche. “This is a good place to be,” the Cleveland, Ohio native said. “Lewes residents are very engaged in improving the community and supporting local organizations.”

Thanks, in no small measure, to the Lewes Historical Society.

First given in 1985, the Nancy Hank Memorial Award recognizes a specific achievement that has benefitted either the honoree’s home institution or the museum field in general. The cited achievement may be in any area of a museum’s operation: administration, exhibitions, education, public relations, registration, collections management or development.  Alternatively, the accomplishment may benefit the museum field generally (for instance, a development plan, membership plan, exhibition design, or collection policy that can serve as a model for other museums).
The award commemorates the lifelong support by the late Nancy Hanks of cultural endeavors, and in particular her encouragement of young professionals in the cultural arena.  Nancy Hanks served eight exceptional years as Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, among other accomplishments.
About AAM
The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing= knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 18,000 individual, 3,000 institutional and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit


Press Contact:
Dewey Blanton
AAM Communications
Phone: (202) 218-7704

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