PMA Announces Strategic Vision and Positioning for the Future


Charles Shipman Payson Building, Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Photo by Craig Becker.

The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) announced today a strategic vision for its future that includes a multifaceted collection project titled PMA 2016: Your Museum, Reimagined; a campus master plan; and an organizational restructuring that will position and prepare the PMA for additional growth.

“Museums continue to be under great pressure to be mission driven and economically sustainable, two qualities that can be difficult to reconcile but are highly valued at the Portland Museum of Art,” said PMA Director Mark H.C. Bessire. “Today, it is this juncture of mission and economic efficiency where many museums seem to be challenged. Our goal is to make our mission and artistic vision sustainable through the optimization of resources, excellent planning, and a strong work and volunteer force committed to excellence and integrity.”

PMA 2016: Your Museum, Reimagined is the culmination of the PMA’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan and involves evaluating and reinstalling our permanent collection of more than 18,000 objects, providing visitors and members a range of opportunities to access and interact with the collection. The museum will close for six weeks beginning in January 2016 and reopen to the public on Sunday, February 14, with a completely reinstalled and reinterpreted experience, online access to the art, and an enhanced campus.

PMA 2016 includes the publication of the museum’s first-ever collection catalogue, which will provide information, context, and insight into the museum’s history, architecture, and art. Written by PMA curators, the catalogue will feature the museum’s most significant works of art and will include an essay surveying the PMA’s 130-year history by Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.

PMA 2016 will also include digital access to the museum’s entire collection. With the collection available online, the PMA will ensure that the public and scholars alike can experience the art, regardless of their location. The online database project will provide unparalleled access to the PMA’s unique collection.

In addition to new ways to experience art in the galleries and online, PMA 2016 will introduce a campus master plan which will guide the museum’s physical presence for years to come, while enhancing its amenities and providing a better visitor experience—enabling individually tailored experiences with the art.

An anonymous New England foundation has partially funded the planning phases of this project with a $250,000 grant, which includes support for a new strategic plan, the campus master plan, and an audience assessment project. To leverage support for PMA collection access—specifically the establishment of an art study room and online collection database—the foundation has challenged the PMA to raise $300,000 by January 31, 2015, after which the museum will receive an additional $150,000 from the foundation.

As the museum implements PMA 2016, members of the curatorial staff have taken on new roles. Jessica May’s new title is Chief Curator, and she will provide leadership and the implementation of strategies for exhibition programming and for the care, development, and use of the PMA’s collection. Karen Sherry’s new title is Curator of American Art and Director of Collections and Andrew Eschelbacher is the new Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Assistant Curator of European Art. Diana Greenwold has been hired as a Curatorial Fellow, and her work will focus on the PMA 2016 project.

The PMA now has a divisional structure that encompasses four areas: Exhibitions and Collections, Audience Engagement and Communications, Development and Membership, and Operations. The PMA has identified these divisions as the core areas that deliver the institutional mission while providing a strong system of communications, accountability, and shared decision-making. The Exhibitions and Collections division is co-directed by Chief Curator Jessica May and Registrar Lauren Silverson; Audience Engagement and Communications division is led by Elizabeth Jones; Development and Membership by Elizabeth Cartland; and Operations by Deputy Director Elena Murdock.

PMA 2016: Your Museum, Reimagined will help the PMA evolve alongside technological advancements, keep pace with a growing Portland, and promote the region’s cultural heritage well into the future.