Peabody Essex Museum enlists its former deputy director to assume the top post

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan will head back as director after serving just a year at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the incoming executive director and chief executive of the Peabody Essex Museum Peabody Essex Museum/Photo: Alex Paul

Four months after the abrupt departure of its executive director and chief executive, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts announced today that it had appointed Lynda Roscoe Hartigan of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to succeed him. She will be the first woman to lead PEM, and served there as chief curator and then deputy director until last year.

Hartigan, who assumes the posts on 23 August, is currently the deputy director for collections and research and the chief innovation offer at the Royal Ontario Museum. She is a leading expert on Joseph Cornell and specialises more generally in American art, especially modern, folk and Black artists, PEM says. The museum cited her “progressive vision” for the institution, the oldest continuously operating museum in the US.

The announcement made no mention of Brian P. Kennedy, who resigned as director and chief executive of the museum in December after just 17 months in the post. He gave no reason for his exit then beyond saying he wanted to seek a new challenge.

The museum says that in her previous positions as PEM’s chief curator from 2003 to 2016 and deputy director from 2016 to 2020, Hartigan led an ambitious curatorial and exhibition programme and reimagined the museum's exhibition, publishing and collection strategies. She was involved in the establishment of its 120,000 sq. ft Collection Center in Rowley, Massachusetts and the reinstallation of PEM’s collection when the museum opened a new 40,000 sq. ft wing in 2019.

Before joining PEM, Hartigan was chief curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

PEM is known for its collection of American art and architecture, Asian art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic and African art and rare books and manuscripts.