John Davis named new president, CEO of Historic Deerfield



Staff Report
Published: 5/19/2021 4:16:39 PM

DEERFIELD — Historic Deerfield Inc. has named John Davis, former provost and undersecretary for museums, education and research at the Smithsonian Institution, as its new president and CEO. Davis succeeds Philip Zea, who is retiring from the museum after 18 years in the top post.

Joe Gromacki, chair of Historic Deerfield’s board of trustees, said in a press release that the board is delighted to welcome Davis, noting that he has shown a deep passion for Deerfield and a “strong recognition of its importance in the American cultural landscape.”

“John is someone who demonstrates the ability, aptitude and desire to take Historic Deerfield to a new level of impact and success as we move into the next chapter of Historic Deerfield’s institutional life,” Gromacki said.

Likewise, Davis emphasized his eagerness to join Historic Deerfield, saying that Deerfield is “a cultural asset to the entire nation.”

“I look forward to working with the staff, board and community as we envision an even more impactful Historic Deerfield for the future,” said Davis, an Ohio native.

Davis’ appointment as Historic Deerfield president and CEO comes following a search conducted by the Isaacson Miller search firm and a search committee of Historic Deerfield’s board of trustees. Davis and his husband, Jason Heffner, will move to Deerfield later this summer to start in the new role.

Davis has most recently served as interim director of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Before that, he served as provost and undersecretary for museums, education and research at the Smithsonian from 2017 to 2020, according to the release.

Prior to his time with the Smithsonian, Davis served as executive director of the Terra Foundation for American Art in Paris and executive director of global academic programs. According to the release, he was also formerly a faculty member and administrator at Smith College in Northampton, serving for five years as associate provost and dean for academic development. Davis taught at Columbia and Princeton universities before joining the Smith College faculty in 1992.

In addition to authoring or co-authoring seven books and museum catalogs and contributing dozens of essays to other publications, the release states that Davis has lectured at over 60 museums and universities and is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society.


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