Following a nationwide search, The Connecticut Historical Society’s Board of Trustees has named Robert Kret, former director of The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. as new CEO. Kret will take the helm of the CHS in May, continuing the Society’s mission to serve the people of Connecticut by preserving and sharing stories, manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials related to the State’s social, cultural, and family history.
As director of The O’Keeffe Museum, Kret oversaw management of more than 3,000 works of art, 15,000 objects of O’Keeffe’s personal property, a library and archive, two historic properties, and conservation activities. He helped generate more than $2 million in annual donations and increased annual visitations to more than 175,000 at the galleries in Santa Fe and 25,000 at the O’Keeffe home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico. He also oversaw national and international traveling exhibitions helping promote O’Keeffe’s influence across the globe.
Kret led The O’Keeffe Museum through periods of growth and change. He built and retained a talented team of staff, and he oversaw the design and construction of a new visitor center in Abiquiu, which opened in 2018. He also served as executive producer of the 2017 documentary film on O’Keeffe’s life and career, “Memories of Miss O’Keeffe.”
“I am honored to join the CHS and welcome the opportunity to broaden my focus from one fiercely independent American icon to one fiercely independent state,” Kret said. “Connecticut has always stood as a culturally significant place and the CHS is home to countless treasures that hold regional and national interest and importance. I also look forward to working with such an exceptional team of curators, researchers, administrators, donors, volunteers, and the countless others needed to support a museum and research library of this caliber.”
Kret began his career in museum administration at the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston, Massachusetts, which included management of 24 historic properties located in five states. He also served as director of the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, and the Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to joining the O’Keeffe Museum, he was director of the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he oversaw the development and implementation of strategic plans, exhibitions, and education programs. He was closely involved in the City’s 21st Century Waterfront Plan that included a $23 million expansion of the Hunter Museum.
“Rob has such wonderful experience managing museums, building and maintaining community relationships, and fostering the importance of preserving history in our society,” said Barbara Kiefer, president of the CHS Board of Trustees. “His leadership and vision through times of change and expansion are important to us as we work towards an innovative future for the CHS. We are excited to tap into his energy and begin this new chapter for our organization, and we know he will serve the CHS and our community well.”
Kret is a frequent lecturer and presenter and has served on many cultural and community boards and committees. He earned a Master of Arts degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York at Oneonta, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a Political Science minor from the University of Detroit in Michigan.
The Connecticut Historical Society (www.CHS.org) is a private, not-for-profit educational organization that includes a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center. Founded in 1825, the CHS is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. The CHS, a Smithsonian Affiliate, works to connect visitors to the story of Connecticut, and to help create a society that values historical perspective and understanding as essential tools in shaping communities and making informed decisions. The museum’s collection exceeds four million items, which are available to the public onsite at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, off-site at other locations, and online.