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Sheldon Museum taps Brooks as its leader

MIDDLEBURY — Earlier this month, Middlebury’s Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History picked a local man with experience in the field as its new executive director.
William F. Brooks Jr. of New Haven took over on June 5 after eight years as the development director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation in Plymouth Notch.
Sheldon board of trustees chairwoman Marnie Wood said Brooks is an ideal fit.
“We are thrilled and fortunate to welcome Bill Brooks to the Sheldon Museum,” Wood said. “Bill’s fundraising, management, scholarship, art and history education background will make him an excellent steward of the Sheldon’s buildings and collections. His skills complement the professional credentials and exemplary talents of the current museum staff.”
Brooks originally worked in banking in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, but made the jump to a career in art history and museum work after a former girlfriend inspired him with her interest in collecting decoys. He soon retired from banking and went to New York University to learn more about American folk art.
Brooks holds an undergraduate degree from Kenyon College and a master’s graduate degree in American Folk Art Studies from New York University.
Brooks said he has strong Vermont roots and close family bonds with the state — his mother and maternal grandparents were Vermont natives. Brooks spoke fondly of the summers he spent on Lake Champlain year after year.
“I’ve actually come here a day or two every summer my whole life,” said Brooks. “So when I came back to live here permanently in 1997, it was like a second home.”
Brooks’ connection with the area is one of the many things that attracted him to the position of director at the Sheldon. He has had years of experience in the area of art history. Brooks ran a gallery in Rhode Island, was the executive director of the Frog Hollow Craft Center, and was the development director for the Calvin Coolidge Museum and Education Center.
Furthering his connection to the area and the collection, Brooks revealed that letters between his grandparents are housed in the Sheldon Museum.
“My scholarship and interest in history is reflected in the archives here,” said Brooks. “Included in the museum’s archives are the letters exchanged between my grandfather, who was a World War I physician in France, and my grandmother during the two years.”
Additionally, Brooks was drawn to the strong sense of community surrounding the Sheldon Museum. Brooks attributes the success of the museum to the support of its volunteers in events like antique auctions and an annual spring garden tour.
“The fact that this community supports so wonderfully this museum is wonderful, and I hope that continues and grows,” he said.
Brooks’ goals for the museum include promoting its collection by reaching a wider audience. Through marketing, advertising and social networking, Brooks hopes to increase the number of visitors annually at the Sheldon Museum.
But Brooks understands being executive director is much more than a marketing position.
“(The job) means bringing the community to this museum, making sure we take care of the collection and the archives, and fulfilling the mission of the museum all in a professional way,” he said. “I want to make the museum financially secure and have it continue to be a mainstay of the community.”
Contact Lauren Davidson at [email protected].

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