Historical Society of Pennsylvania Announces the Appointment of David R. Brigham as CEO


Philadelphia, October 27, 2020 – The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) announced today that David R. Brigham, Ph.D., will become its new Chief Executive Officer, giving oversight of one of the nation’s largest and most important collections of historical archives to a top scholar, prominent educator, and a proven leader in the arts and humanities.


Dr. Brigham joins HSP after a ten-year tenure as Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His appointment was unanimously approved by the HSP Board of Councilors. He begins on November 30.


“Today marks a monumental day and a turning point in the history of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with the appointment of such an accomplished leader as our new Chief Executive Officer,” said Eric W. Noll, Chair of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Board of Councilors. “HSP conducted a national search for a new leader, and not surprisingly, due to the richness of Philadelphia’s cultural community, we found our new leader right in our backyard.”


The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a critical part of the network of institutions that care for the primary source materials that document the history of the United States, along with Pennsylvania and the surrounding regions. HSP’s 20+ million item collection includes the first two drafts of the United States Constitution, an original printer’s proof of the Declaration of Independence, the earliest surviving American photograph, and the papers of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. HSP also has a vast array of material that illuminates the lives of people of all demographics, featuring the extensive holdings of the Balch Institute (which came to HSP in 2002) that document over 60 ethnic groups, showing the pluralistic nature of the American people and their history. Women’s history is also a great strength of HSP’s library and archives, which is especially relevant on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.


Dr. Brigham brings a dynamic and effective leadership style that embodies all facets of running a modern and successful educational and cultural institution. At PAFA, Brigham presided over a transformative period of growth and innovation. Working closely with the Board and his colleagues, he amplified PAFA’s mission by doubling its annual operating budget, increasingits annual giving from $2 million to more than $5 million, increasing its endowment by more than $40 million, and raising $24.5 million to fund PAFA’s campus master plan that resulted in more than 50,000 square feet of renovations.


In advancing PAFA’s mission, Dr. Brigham transformed the exhibition program from presenting content organized by other museums to one that produced dozens of original exhibitions developed by PAFA’s curators, resulting in new scholarship, major publications, national tours, and recognition for previously under represented women and artists of color. The collections grew through gift and purchase by an unprecedented 25%, with a particular emphasis on contemporary art; works by women, LGBTQ artists, and artists of color; as well as a number of significant works by Hudson River School artists.


Brigham’s commitment to education and access is evident in the dramatic expansion of programs and attendance, including the School Community Partnership that serves four schools in North Kensington and Feltonville with year-round art education, art supplies, and transportation to visit PAFA’s museum. Under Brigham’s leadership, the School became an accredited college, and added new concentrations in Illustration and Animation as well as an innovative Low-Residency MFA degree program.


“The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is Philadelphia’s library of American history, but it is also America’s library of American history,” said Dr. Brigham.“Through its unrivaled breadth and depth of 350 years of manuscripts and graphics, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania reveals the American story like no other institution.”


“I am deeply honored, and look forward to working with the board and staff to continue the turnaround of this institution with a renewed focus on its core mission, its enormously important historical significance, and expanding access to these extraordinary resources.”


Mr. Noll added: “I am extremely grateful to our Interim Chief Executive Officer Charles Cullen who has steered our ship with a very steady hand. Without his help we would never have been able to make this extraordinary announcement today.”


Dr. Brigham came to PAFA in 2007 as the Edna. S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum. He was later promoted to PAFA CEO in 2010. Prior to his role at PAFA, David Brigham was Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Worcester Art Museum and Executive Director at the Allentown Art Museum. He earned his undergraduate degrees in English and Accounting at the University of Connecticut and his Master’s and Ph.D. in American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania.

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