Founding Executive Director Elected by Faculty to Present September 5th in Public Lecture
(Gettysburg, Penna.) The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg will open its 187th year with an academic convocation Wednesday September 5th at 11:55am featuring a public lecture by Ms. Barbara Franco, Founding Executive Director of the Seminary Ridge Museum.
The opening convocation will occur at the Seminary’s chapel on the 186th anniversary of the first day of classes at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, and is open to the public. Franco’s lecture title is “Public History as a Calling.”
“It is an honor to be asked to speak at the Seminary’s Opening Convocation,” said Franco “as we mark both the beginning of a new academic year and the launch of a new museum in historic Schmucker Hall.” Franco expects to address issues beyond programs and plans for the museum, approaching the broader context for the intersections of history and religion from my perspective as a historian and to explore how those intersections can foster new relationships between the work of the seminary and the museum.
Elected to lecture for the opening convocation by the 16-member faculty, Franco is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies. She has been working in museums and historical organizations since 1966. She began her museum career as Curator of Decorative Arts at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York, and then worked as curator, coordinator of exhibits, and assistant director at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts from its opening in 1975. From 1990 to April 1995 she served as Assistant Director for Museums at the Minnesota Historical Society, with responsibility for the educational programs, exhibitions and museum collections in a new History Center that opened to the public in the fall of 1992. From 1995 to 2003 she served as President and CEO of The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., where she played an active role in promoting community history and heritage tourism. She headed up the project to create the City Museum of Washington, D.C., which opened in May 2003 at the renovated Carnegie Library building at Mount Vernon Square. From 2004 through 2011 she served as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the official history agency of Pennsylvania responsible for the preservation, interpretation and promotion of Pennsylvania’s past and one of the largest and most comprehensive state history organizations in the country.
Franco was brought on board in January of this year to guide the start-up of the museum, a joint venture of the Seminary and the Adams County Historical Society. Her work with the Seminary Ridge Museum in historic Schmucker Hall will be one of the lasting legacies of the 150th anniversary. It will offer a new level of interpretation for the first day of the battle, the social, moral and religious context of the Civil War and its aftermath, as well as stories of African American life in Adams County.
She is recognized as a national leader in history museums and is a past chairman of the American Association for State and Local History. Since 1997, she has been a faculty member of the Seminar for Historical Administration, teaching a course on “Managing Change” in historical museums and institutions. Ms. Franco has had extensive experience in exhibition development, published catalogues, articles, and given presentations on a number of topics that include historical interpretation, museum practice and historical research. She has been actively involved in heritage tourism development and in state and national planning for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
The lecture “Public History as a Calling” will be published in an upcoming edition of the seminary’s journal, Seminary Ridge Review. The seminary faculty have elected members of their own ranks for these opening convocation lectures, but several years ago began a pattern of extending invitations in alternate years to scholars and thinkers outside the seminary’s faculty. Other recent lecturers from other institutions have included College President Janet Riggs and Washington Theological Consortium director Fr. John Crossan.
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, the oldest of the eight seminaries of the 4.8 million member ELCA, prepares women and men to be outreach oriented pastors, public theologians and mission leaders. In addition, it provides programs in continuing studies, advanced theological education, and specialized educational programs for informed lay persons, ordained and other rostered leaders, and high school youth.
More information about the museum is available at the website of the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation (www.seminaryridge.org) and the Adams County Historical Society, and the Seminary Ridge Museum website (www.seminaryridgemuseum) as of September 4th.