Stephanie Hill Wilchfort, who for the past eight years has served as president and CEO of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, will be the next director and president of the Museum of the City of New York, the museum announced Tuesday.
“I’m really interested in telling stories at the Museum of the City of New York that are about a city of progress, not a city of perfection,” Wilchfort said in a phone interview.
Wilchfort, 47, succeeds Whitney Donhauser, who left in late 2022 to become deputy director and director of advocacy at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sarah Henry, who had served as the museum’s interim director since her departure, will return to her role as chief curator and deputy director.
It was Wilchfort’s record of winning the support of corporations, institutions and individuals that made her stand out from the field of candidates, William Vrattos, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said in a statement.
The museum celebrates its centenary this year. It was founded in 1923, just 25 years after the consolidation that made Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens parts of New York City, and was originally housed at Gracie Mansion, which later became the residence of the mayors of the city. The museum moved into its home in East Harlem, on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, in 1932.
Wilchfort, a native of Brooklyn, said the Museum of the City of New York was one of the first museums her mother, the daughter of immigrants who grew up in Washington Heights, remembers visiting as a child. The museum was special to her, Wilchfort said, because she felt it reflected the diversity of the city and her own history.
“And I believe that the museum has the opportunity and the obligation to be that place for all New Yorkers,” he said.
The museum has yet to see its attendance numbers return to pre-pandemic levels. It had 139,000 in-person visitors in the last fiscal year, up from 320,000 in the last full fiscal year before the pandemic. A spokeswoman, Meryl Cooper, said school programs and international tourists had not fully returned.
During Wilchfort’s eight years at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, which he had led since 2015, he oversaw a 30% increase in visitors and a 50% increase in contributed annual revenue. The museum also raised $45 million in equity funds to finance projects including the opening of a Brooklyn Public Library branch on the ground floor of the museum, a 180-seat auditorium and cinema, a 20,000-square-foot rooftop terrace and a 1,500-square-foot terrace. foot art studio
Wilchfort, who has a master’s degree in finance and international economic policy from Columbia University, also previously served as vice president of development at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, where her responsibilities included fundraising, board development, government affairs and the museum’s $20 million capital campaign.
She will start her new role in September.