Sunday July 1, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A local museum known for its iconic stone barn and baby animals has a new leader.

After a year-long, nationwide search, the board of trustees at Hancock Shaker Village has hired Linda M. Steigleder, an arts administrator from western North Carolina, as the new president and CEO of the living history museum.

Steigleder will officially take the helm on July 16, replacing Ellen Spear, who left the position in March 2011. Spear moved on to become the executive director at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

Interim president Laura Wolf will return to her full-time duties as the museum’s director of operations and marketing, according to museum officials.

Steigleder, in her mid-50’s, has 30 years of experience in history and art museums, primarily running facilities in eastern New York, Boston and the Hartford area from the mid 1980s to 2008.

Most recently, the Virginia native oversaw the construction and eventual operation of The Bascom, a $13 million visual arts complex in Highlands, N.C., near the South Carolina border. Steigleder was its executive director from January 2008 to January 2011, leaving that position to do consulting work.

The board feels Steigleder will be a good fit for one of the area’s major tourist attractions, which draws 70,000 people annually.

"Linda, in partnership with [our] staff, will bring [the] Hancock Shaker Village visitor experience to a new level," said board Chairman Ron Walter in a statement.


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Trustee Mary Renz added, "She comes to us with extensive leadership across a range of disciplines that are particularly relevant to our museum and the cultural community in the Berkshires."

Steigleder is returning to museum leadership in part because, she said, she was intrigued by Hancock Shaker Village when she visited a decade ago while living in Connecticut.

"There is so much practice and skills there relative to today," she said in a phone interview from her North Carolina home. "The sustainability and green approach to living we seek today is reminiscent of the Shaker lifestyle."

Hancock Shaker Village was established in 1961 as an outdoor living museum dedicated to preserving its 18 historic buildings and the way of life the Shakers, a religious order, established more than 220 years ago along the site on Route 20.

The working farm and museum also includes heirloom medicinal and vegetable gardens, 22,000 examples of Shaker furniture, crafts, tools and clothes as well as heritage breed farm animals.

With the help of museum staff, trustees and especially the volunteers, whom Steigleder calls the "heart and soul" of the museum, she looks forward to helping move 19th-century traditions into a 21st-century world.

"I believe it’s important to preserve our museums and parks as they give us a more well-rounded life," Steigleder said. "Life would be a pretty sorry experience if all we did was get in our cars and go shopping."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.