Vagnone to leave Old Salem after five years as president and CEO

Vagnone to leave Old Salem after five years as president and CEO

10:45pm May 22, 2022
This photo, taken around 1870, highlights a since-destroyed building that once housed enslaved people in Salem. As part of the Hidden Town Project, researchers have determined 35 separate dwelling places for enslaved people once existed in Salem. Photo courtesy of Old Salem Museums and Gardens.

Old Salem Museums and Gardens is looking for new leadership. Current president and CEO Franklin Vagnone is leaving for a position in Rhode Island.

Vagnone was an out-of-the-box choice when leaders of the tradition-bound institution chose him for the top position in 2016. Vagnone had earned a reputation as somewhat of an iconoclast after a book he co-authored — The Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums — reimagined the way history was presented.

Vagnone focused on an expanded and more inclusive story of the Old Salem community through such initiatives as the Hidden Town Project, which provided research into the town’s early population of enslaved and free Black people.

In a release, Old Salem officials praised Vagnone’s leadership for balanced budgets, pay parity and restoration of more than 20 historic properties.

Vagnone is leaving Old Salem Museums and Gardens and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at the end of June. He’s been hired as the president of the Newport Restoration Foundation in Rhode Island.

Current Old Salem chief operating officer Terry Taylor will serve as interim president. Officials are planning to form a committee to select a new leader in 2023.

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