Museum Director Departs

In a modest corner office tucked away behind the galleries of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, executive director Elisabeth A. Werby ’72 is getting ready to pack her boxes and leave Harvard next Wednesday.

Werby, who has worked at the museum for five and a half years, has accepted a position as chief of staff in the Office of the President at Northeastern University, where she will begin next month.

David Ellis, who has previously served as the president of the Boston Museum of Science and as interim director for the Boston Children’s Museum, will serve as the interim director of the HMNH as the museum searches for Werby’s permanent successor.

Werby announced her departure in an e-mail to the museum community yesterday.

“I have accomplished much of what I set out to accomplish,” she said. “Now it is time for new challenges.”


She wrote in a separate e-mail to The Crimson that during her tenure, “the museum has enhanced its visibility both on and beyond the campus, partnering with faculty and students in a wide range of programmatic activities and increasing annual attendance by nearly 30 percent to 180,000 visitors a year.”

She wrote that she is most proud of the museum’s achievements in engaging more undergraduates, “as general visitors, as participants in our programs, and in their classes.”

“The museum has increasing relevance as a resource for teaching,” she wrote.

Northeastern extended its offer to Werby in early January, and Werby said she has worked with the staff at the museum over the past month to develop a transition plan.

“We did not want to make a broad announcement until there was a plan for an orderly transition,” Werby said, adding that plans are already in place for future exhibitions and programs.

“I would not have left unless I believed [the museum] was in a terrific place,” Werby said.

She said that she has been working with Ellis for the past two weeks to introduce him to the staff and museum plans.

The advisory board of the museum selected Ellis as the interim director of the HMNH, Werby said, adding that it was a decision “that I’m really happy about.”

“The museum has a wonderful staff who do their jobs extraordinarily well,” she said.


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