Historic Deerfield president to step down after 18 years at helm

  • ZEA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2020 1:31:34 PM

DEERFIELD — Phil Zea recently announced his plans to retire in the spring of 2021, leaving Historic Deerfield after 18 years as its president and CEO, and nearly two decades prior in roles that included deputy director and chief curator.

“There are other things I want to do,” Zea said. “Before I was the CEO, I was a curator. I was the chief curator at Historic Deerfield for 18 years or so, and I also worked at Colonial Williamsburg ... I want to get back to that kind of work, which I really enjoyed.”

He said he wants to return to the content side of things, which includes more teaching of history and culture.

“Though I’m retiring from this administrative position, I don’t feel like my career is over,” he said.

Zea said the decision comes a year in advance of when he’ll formally step down to allow ample time to find his replacement.

“It’ll take nine or 10 months via a search firm… to find my successor,” he said.

The museum’s board of trustees has formed a search committee and plans to engage an executive search firm to launch a nationwide search for its next president and CEO, according to a press release from Historic Deerfield.

“Though indeed he leaves very big shoes to fill, we look forward to the opportunity to identify a successor who can help us take Historic Deerfield to the next level of success and impact in the field,” said Joseph P. Gromacki, chair of Historic Deerfield board of trustees. “We thank Phil for everything he has done to promote and develop our beloved institution and we remind him that he will always be a part of the Historic Deerfield family.”

Zea said that after a career that has spanned several decades in various roles at the museum, it’s hard to narrow down the many highlights of his time there.

“Most of the highlights have been the people I’ve met and people I’ve worked with in Deerfield and elsewhere,” he said.

In his administrative role, Zea pointed to the restoration work at Barnard Tavern and the purchase of the Creelman House in late 2018 as highlights of his time at Historic Deerfield.

“I’ve had a good time along the way with various projects,” Zea said. “Deerfield is basically a museum. ... As we work toward what this great place was like at different points in history ... any progress there is particularly satisfying.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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