As Director of Strategic Projects, Smith's new focus will be on capacity building fund raising and other projects for the Village, with special emphasis coordinating a new initiative by the Summerlee Foundation
For 18 years, Gary N. Smith has served as Dallas Heritage Village’s President and Executive Director, presiding over a period where the museum expanded both its physical presence and its interactive education programs. He has recently stepped into a new role as Director of Strategic Projects, which for the next two years will largely focus on coordinating a new initiative sponsored by the Summerlee Foundation called the Summerlee Commission on the Sustainability of History Organizations. Its purpose is to seek solutions for the long-term challenges to the sustainability of history museums, historic house museums, historical societies, and other historical organizations.
“While focusing on this new initiative, I will continue to work out of my office at Dallas Heritage Village and look forward to working with a steering committee of museum professionals from around the state as well as with advisors from around the country,” added Smith. “This is very exciting for me as the Summerlee Commission on the Sustainability of History Organizations will move beyond the usual history organization solutions of offering new changing exhibits, education programs and special events, and will be looking at the deeper issues of funding, governance, and community engagement.”
For the past 25 years, the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas has been a consistent and strong supporter of Texas history organizations and projects. While they celebrate the many successes of history organizations in Texas, the Summerlee Foundation’s sponsorship of this project reflects their concern for the fragile nature of many history organizations. The foundation is committed to help find lasting solutions.
“I am deeply devoted to Dallas Heritage Village and honored that the Village is supporting my efforts and the efforts of this new commission,” added Smith. “After spending more than 35 years in this profession, it is now my hope that we can help find ways to help the next generation of history organizations to survive and prosper.”
As part of the study, the Commission will examine the current status of the Texas history organization community, seeking input of history professionals, trustees, volunteers, and supporters from around the state. Of special note, the Commission will be focusing on areas of funding and governance, looking at communities where history outlets are successful and sustainable and determining if those methods might be applicable to other communities. In their search for new models of funding and governance, the Commission will also make contact with nonprofit leaders working in a variety of disciplines throughout the U.S. With the goal to offer a series of new and fundamental approaches to the issue of sustainability, ultimately, the Commission’s findings will be compiled and promoted throughout Texas and the nation.
“Organizational governance, in both the public and private sector, are under scrutiny by government, shareholders, and the public at large,” added John Crain, President of the Summerlee Foundation. “This study, under the leadership of Gary Smith, who is recognized as an exemplary non-profit manager and educator, is critical to the future of the history community in Texas. When this project was presented to the Summerlee Foundation Board of Directors, the Board was impressed with its emphasis on creating new models for organizational structure and management. We are excited to partner in this groundbreaking project.”
In addition to focusing on the new initiative, Smith will assist with capacity building fund raising and other projects at the Village. Succeeding Smith at Dallas Heritage Village is Melissa Prycer, who has been appointed Interim Executive Director. Prycer has served the Village for the past nine years as educator and associate director.
“Melissa Prycer is an outstanding young professional who is brimming with new ideas and energy,” added Smith. “Dallas Heritage Village is very fortunate to have Melissa take over the reins of the museum and provide a seamless transition.”
The current chairman of the board of trustees is Don Baynham, who also serves as the chairman of the Dallas County Historical Commission.
Gary Smith grew up in Fort Worth, attended graduate school at the University of Delaware, and worked at the Historical Society of Delaware, the Missouri Historical Society, and the McFaddin-Ward House (Beaumont, Texas) before joining what was then called Old City Park in 1995. He is active in the museum profession, having served as President of the Texas Association of Museums and serving as a field reviewer for the American Alliance of Museum’s Accreditation Program. He serves as an adjunct professor in museum studies at Baylor University’s Museum Studies Program. While at Dallas Heritage Village he put special emphasis on “filling out” the Village with barns and other support buildings, gardens and crop areas, and the introduction of live animals, including the very popular donkeys Nip and Tuck. Another priority was to build more education programs and small events, and to expand the museum’s grounds to include the closing of Gano Street and the unification of the museum’s several parcels of land. He twice led the museum through reaccreditation with the American Alliance of Museums, and guided the museum through two recessions. As he approaches 20 years at the Village, he intends to focus his efforts on helping to build the museum’s long-term funding capacity, including building the museum’s endowment.
For more information on Dallas Heritage Village go to www.dallasheitagevillage.org or call (214) 421-5141.
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Dallas Heritage Village, located at Old City Park, is a nationally accredited history museum, depicting life in Dallas from 1840-1910. It is one of only five museums in the Dallas area to have this distinction. The grounds showcase 38 historic structures, including log cabins, the pre-Civil War Millermore home, a Victorian Main Street, a railroad complex, an 1860s farmstead with livestock, a 19th century church, school and more. Visitors discover how crops were grown, animals cared for and how family living progressed from log cabins to grand manors and Victorian homes. Dallas Heritage Village is supported, in part, by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts as well as individual and group donations. Dallas Heritage Village was nominated in 2011 and 2012 by D Magazine as one of the top Dallas-area family attractions. It is located at 1515 South Harwood, one block south of Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas. Hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 4 p.m. The Village is closed the months of January and August. Regular admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors 65+ and $5 for children ages 4-12. Children under 4 and members of Dallas Heritage Village are admitted free of charge. For more information call 214-421-5141 or visit www.DallasHeritageVillage.org
Founded in 1988 by Annie Lee Roberts, the mission of the Summerlee Foundation is to address critical issues in animal protection and Texas history. Headed by John Crain, the Foundation has received recognition in both program areas for its excellent work and has to date awarded over $27 million to grantees. The Foundation is governed by a seven member board of directors composed of animal and history experts and community leaders. The Summerlee Foundation is a member of the Council on Foundations, the Philanthropy Roundtable, the Conference of Southwest Foundations, the Animal Grantmakers and the Association of Small Foundations. The Foundation's principal office is located at the Caruth Homeplace, 5556 Caruth Haven Lane, in Dallas, Texas. The animal protection program is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2006, the Foundation was recognized as the Outstanding Foundation by the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.