August 1, 2017
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center today announced Katherine Kane’s retirement as Executive Director effective May 2018. Kane has held the position since 1998.
“Serving as Executive Director of a 21st century museum that inspires social justice and positive change has been an honor and a privilege,” said Kane. “I look forward to working with the staff and board to ensure a smooth transition to a new leader who will carry on the Center’s mission.”
Under Kane’s leadership, the Stowe Center has transformed from a private foundation to a publicly-oriented museum with a diverse audience, a myriad of programs, and expanded regional and national partnerships.
Now a program center and tourist attraction, the Stowe Center is a place where people from all 50 states and 20 countries gather to take inspiration from Harriet Beecher Stowe whose words changed the world with her 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In addition to those who visit, the Stowe Center annually engages online with more than 300,000 people from countries around the globe including Pakistan, Argentina, India and the United Kingdom.
Innovative programs developed during Kane’s tenure include award winning Salons at Stowe, bringing the public into the parlor for conversations on contemporary issues, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice — most recently awarded to Bryan Stevenson for his memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption — and the Student Stowe Prize. Kane also oversaw the recently completed Stowe House interior preservation — the first major renovation since the National Historic Landmark opened in 1968 — as well as development of an inventive new tour experience.
The Stowe Center’s program approach has gained considerable attention from other museums and the public. Recent colleague visits include The Historic Ford Estates, the National Park Service, Trustees of Reservations, the New England Museum Association, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and the Thomas Cole Historic Sites. Ms. Kane has spoken about Stowe Center tours and programs at industry conferences around the country and in Denmark and Japan.
“For nearly 20 years, Katherine Kane has shown tremendous vision and leadership,” said Thomas O. Farrish, Chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees. “Her courage to transform the Stowe Center into a community-focused entity and her willingness to take on difficult discussion topics mark her as an exceptional leader who has left her imprint on the institution.”
Susan Johnson, Board of Trustees Vice Chair added “Katherine has been immensely valuable to the Stowe Center and to the Hartford community. We will miss her intelligence, professionalism and camaraderie as we move into a new chapter in the Stowe Center’s nearly 50-year history.”
In addition to her impact at the Stowe Center, Ms. Kane is a museum leader at both the state and federal levels, serving on the American Association of Museums Accreditation Commission and currently as chair of the governing council of the American Association for State and Local History.
Ms. Kane received the NCCJ Human Relations Award in 2014, was appointed to the American Antiquarian Society in 2011, received the Hartford Permanent Commission on the Status of Women annual award in 2011, and the Civitan Citizen of the Year Award in 2005. She has been a frequent contributor to museum publications and has participated on multiple panels for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute for Museum & Library Services.
Prior to serving as Stowe Center Executive Director, Ms. Kane was Director of the Collections Services and Access Division at History Colorado, and Director of Special Projects at the Denver Art Museum. She has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Denver and an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado and was a fellow in the Getty Trust’s Museum Management Institute.
A board committee will be formed to begin a nationwide search for Ms. Kane’s successor.