John Wetenhall Appointed Director of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

April 10, 2013

Angela Olson, [email protected]
The George Washington University
Chita Middleton, [email protected]       
The Textile Museum

Washington, D.C.— John Wetenhall was appointed director of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum today. In this capacity, he will lead the development of the forthcoming university museum as well as transition The Textile Museum to the GW campus in fall 2014. Dr. Wetenhall will begin on June 1 and also will hold the appointment of associate professor of museum studies.

“John Wetenhall will take the lead in shaping a new kind of museum for GW. This is a one-of-a-kind partnership and we are confident that he will create a cultural destination that will be a leader in academic and cultural communities in D.C. and around the world,” said Steven Lerman, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs for George Washington. “His accomplishments in both the academic and artistic fields make him the ideal person to connect the strong traditions of scholarship and art in the new museum.”

Dr. Wetenhall, a highly regarded leader in the museum field, was named director following a ten-month national and international search by representatives of the George Washington University and The Textile Museum. He previously served in executive leadership roles at the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla.; and the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville. Dr. Wetenhall is an experienced fundraiser having directed multi-million dollar capital campaign projects.  His experience extends to four major museum building projects, with such architects and firms as Edward Larrabee Barnes, Graham Gund, Herzog & DeMeuron and HOK.

“John Wetenhall has the background to blend business and art, which are key needs for 21st-century museums,” said Bruce P. Baganz, president of The Textile Museum Board of Trustees. “With his broad experience in the museum field, tremendous stature and entrepreneurial approach, we are positive that John will steer the new museum into an era that takes full advantage of the artistic, cultural, academic and technological assets that this partnership provides. His experience in successfully transitioning The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art to Florida State University is a testament to his ability to introduce the key strengths of The Textile Museum to the campus community.”

The new museum at GW will include dedicated galleries and increased exhibition space for The Textile Museum, the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection and the university’s art collections. Exhibitions and programs will be presented to the public and will involve GW faculty and students in academic collaborations.

“The Textile Museum is internationally respected for its global collection, important exhibitions and scholarly publications.  The George Washington University is renowned for its outstanding programs in museum studies and museum education, as well as its rich collection documenting the nation’s capital,” said Dr. Wetenhall.  “The new museum creates at once a campus laboratory for museum training and innovation, while also presenting important art and historical artifacts of profound importance to both Washington, D.C. and the world. This is a magnificent professional opportunity and a chance to contribute meaningfully to the museum field.”

Dr. Wetenhall serves as vice chair and treasurer of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and chairs nominations for the U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM-US).  In 2010, Dr. Wetenhall received the Museum Service Award from the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) and the Florida Association of Museums’ (FAM) Lifetime Achievement Award.

He received a Ph.D. from Stanford University; an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University; a master’s degree from Williams College; and a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. In addition to being a talented administrator, Dr. Wetenhall has served as a curator of European, American and contemporary art, and, as an art historian, has taught at Stanford University, Santa Clara University and the University of Minnesota.  He also has taught graduate courses in museum management and has been a featured speaker at numerous professional conferences.

“As a longtime admirer of Albert Small’s Washingtoniana Collection and as a proponent for the new museum, I am thrilled to have someone of Dr. Wetenhall’s caliber as its director,” said Robert Perry, a member of George Washington’s Board of Trustees and a participant on the search committee.  “This is a rare opportunity to have a D.C. museum on a university campus that will tell the story of the founding of our nation’s capital and that will be a destination museum for scholars, students and the public.”

Once at GW, the acclaimed programs and exhibitions involving The Textile Museum collection will continue, augmented by new opportunities for research and public engagement. The new museum will showcase The Textile Museum’s internationally-recognized collections of more than 19,000 pieces, which encompass the textile arts of peoples across the Near East, Central Asia, East and Southeast Asia, Africa and the indigenous cultures of the Americas. The 20,000-volume Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts also will be housed in the new museum on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus. The Textile Museum exhibition “Out of Southeast Asia: Art that Sustains,” opening this Friday, April 12 and on view through October 13, 2013, is the final exhibition in the current museum building.

The university and The Textile Museum held a groundbreaking for the new museum in October 2012. The museum will be a custom-built building located at G and 21st streets, NW, and is expected to be completed by fall 2014.  A conservation and collections resource center at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Va. also is under construction and will be completed in late 2013.