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Levine Museum of the New South's Emily Zimmern to Retire November 1, 2015

Levine Museum of the New South's Emily Zimmern to Retire November 1, 2015


Emily Zimmern, president of Levine Museum of the New South, will retire in November of this year, after two decades leading one of Charlotte’s premier cultural and civic institutions.

In her twenty years at the helm, Zimmern has established Levine Museum as one of the community's most valuable cultural resources and a leader in the broader museum field.

“I’ll be forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead this amazing institution.   I can imagine no more gratifying work--learning each day, meeting extraordinary people, working with talented staff and committed board members, partnering with thoughtful funders and outstanding colleagues--all the while using history to build our community," stated Zimmern in her announcement today to Levine Museum's board of directors, staff, partners and funders.

"But 'to everything there is a season.'  March 13 marked my twenty year anniversary at the museum, and on March 12, I celebrated my 66th birthday. For me it’s time for a more relaxed pace, more time with family - which includes grandchildren here in Charlotte and on the West Coast, and space to figure out my next chapter," she continued. "For the Museum it’s time for the fresh perspectives of a new generation with new energy and ideas.   I leave the Museum in very capable hands with a board and staff ready to manage the transition and take Levine Museum to new levels of relevance and impact."  

Levine Museum's Board of Directors, chaired by Andrew Plepler, is forming a search committee led by board member Peggy Brookhouse to conduct a national search for a new president. With Zimmern's departure on November 1, Levine Museum COO Steve Bentley will serve as interim president until a new president is named.

"When the Board of the fledgling Museum of the New South convinced Emily in 1995 to be our Executive Director, we were confident that her intelligence, leadership, and love of history were what we needed to achieve our mission of becoming a premier history museum for Charlotte and the region," said museum founder Sally Robinson.  "What we did not know was that over the next twenty years, Emily’s inspiring vision of a history museum as a place where stories can be used to build community would lead to Levine Museum of the New South gaining a national reputation as an innovator in both programming and exhibitions. What a joy it has been for me personally to witness her great success as President of Levine Museum of the New South."

During her tenure, Zimmern led the museum through significant transitions, transformations and growth. She became the museum's second executive director in 1995, and in that same year, Zimmern saw the museum through its first major transition as it moved from a "Museum Without Walls" into a physical space with the purchase of the former Clark Tribble Harris Li building at College and 7th Streets and in 1996, the institution opened its doors to the public presenting temporary exhibitions and education programs. In 1998, Zimmern, working with Sally Robinson and the board of directors, successfully completed a $8.2 million capital campaign to renovate the building and create a permanent exhibition. After two years as a "Museum on the Move," the museum again opened its doors to the public in October 2001 as Levine Museum of the New South, debuting a newly renovated facility and the award-winning exhibition Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers. In addition, Zimmern effectively guided the museum through the economic downturn, and has worked to create an endowment that now exceeds $6 million.

Under her leadership, Levine Museum has earned national awards and recognition, including two Excellence in Exhibition Awards from the American Alliance of Museums, and the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  The museum was also chosen for the Innovation Lab for Museums, presented by the American Alliance of Museums' Center for the Future of Museums and EmcArts and funded by the MetLife Foundation, was awarded a transformative and highly competitive grant of $890,000 from the nationally renowned Kresge Foundation, and was awarded a major grant from The Leon Levine Foundation that will lead to $3 million over a ten year period.

Zimmern's work and innovative approaches in the museum field have resulted in invitations to speak and participate in engagements across the country, including the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference and the Smithsonian's Latino Partners Forum.

Committed equally to the community, Zimmern has served in a number of leadership roles that align with her work at the museum, including founding Co-Chair of the Community Building Initiative, Chair of the Board of the North Carolina Center for Non-Profits and most recently, Vice Chair of the City of Charlotte’s Immigrant Integration Task Force.

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