Hunterdon County Historical Society searching for new head following retirement of executive director –

Posted: January 7, 2020 at 6:47 pm

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The keepers of Hunterdon Countys past are in search of someone to guide them into the future.

The Hunterdon County Historical Society is in the process of hiring a new part-time administrator following the retirement of Executive Director Patricia Millen, whose last day with the organization was Dec. 24.

According to Interim Administrator Janice Armstrong, a search committee comprised of the societys trustees are currently interviewing candidates for the role, and are seeking to fill it by the end of this month.

Millens replacement will serve on a team including a professional archivist and librarian, as well as a dedicated group of volunteers. Armstong said that the new administrator should ideally have a background of working in nonprofit organizations, and be proficient in planning, programming, and dealing with the public."

Were really looking for someone that can take on the day-to-day things that are needed, which would be things like writing grants, dealing with answering questions when people call up about things. Just the day-to-day operations," Armstrong stated.

Armstrong added that the search committee preferred that candidates be residents of Hunterdon County and knowledgeable of its history, though she emphasized that neither quality is required.

Millen, a resident of Mercer County, said she knew some Hunterdon County history upon taking on the administrator position in January 2015, but was especially skilled in the clerical duties the role demanded.

When you work with smaller historical societies or smaller museums, you have to have a little bit of knowledge about everything. Grant writing, fundraising, programming, collections management," Millen said. "Thats why you cant just hire a librarian to run a museum, or a museum person to run a library. People have to understand all of the aspects of the job, so its not always an easy position to fill.

Millen developed these skills after garnering over 25 years of experience as a director, supervisor, curator and site administrator in museums and historical organizations across the tristate area.

She also authored a number of historical books, including From Pastime to Passion: Baseball and the Civil War and Bare Trees: Zadock Prat, Master Tanner and the Story of What Happened to the Catskill Mountain Forests.

Reflecting upon her decision to retire, Millen said she was just ready to pursue other occupational endeavors, as well as spend more time with her family.

I wanted to do my own research and writing. And Im going to be doing part-time consulting -- helping smaller historical organizations with grants, collections, managements, things like that," Millen explained. So I still want to work and keep my mind active, but I want to do it on my own terms now, (and work) around my grandchildrens schedules."

Millen said that her fascination in the organizations expansive collections primarily drew her to apply for the administrator role over five years ago, which she served in prior to being promoted to executive director for society.

As a museum person, and a history person, thats just one of those things that draws you to a place," Millen said. They just have an amazing collection, and I was very, very impressed with the (Hiram E. Deats Memorial) Research Library and the archives building that the society built (in 2009) ... and I thought this would be a good fit for me, and it turned out to be.

Reflecting upon her work with the society, Millen said that she was particularly proud of acquiring three separate grants that enabled the organization to further enhance these collections through cataloguing them both physically and online.

The collections are catalogued and online for the public all over the world, and I think thats really important for a small historical society; if theyre going to collect, they have to be able to ... share those collections, Millen said. "And these small repositories all over the country often dont have a way of doing that. The only way you can do that is get your collections online.

Armstrong praised Millens commitment to cataloguing Hunterdons history, stating that she did a wonderful job" of organizing the Doric House museums collections in particular.

We have an extensive collection of quilts and paintings and Civil War uniforms ... and she made sure they were all catalogued, and put as much online, on our website, as possible, which was wonderful too, so people could search for things, Armstrong said.

Millen also obtained an approximately $20,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust to guide the future use of the Doric House.

I was really happy to get that before I left, because I knew, as a director, it was something the society needed to do to make some decisions about its future growth and where they wanted to be in the future, to secure their place in Flemington and Hunterdon and the state," Millen said.

Echoing Millen, Armstrong said that the Doric House needs to be used more by the society and those interested in the history of Hunterdon County.

Its a building that costs us a lot of money to care for, and its not used enough. Were hoping, in the future, that we find a better use for it than the House museum," Armstrong said. Other than trying to grow our audience, and get more of our collection online, I think that thats the other important thing we have in our future.

Courtesy - Hunterdon County Historical Society

Exterior of Doric House

Looking forward, Millen emphasized that whoever is hired to fill her shoes should collaborate with other employees of the organization to prioritize both the use of the Doric House and the management of their collections within the Research Library.

Whatever they do in the future, I think they have to focus on the strength of the collections they have, and the other strength of their collections ... are their manuscript collections for their Research Library. Its an absolutely amazing wealth of information there for their researchers, Millen said.

Whoever comes in there needs to be a professional, needs to understand that tough decisions need to be made. And then just act on them. And if one avenue doesnt work, try another one. But just keep moving forward, she added.

Discussing the importance of the society and its continuance, both Armstrong and Millen underscored its value in recording the history of Hunterdon County.

Were an important part of preserving local history, and if you have an interest in history, its an interesting place to work. We get a lot of people doing genealogical research, research on the history of their homes, so if thats what youre interested in, its certainly the right place to be," Armstong said.

If it wasnt for historical societies all over the country -- theyre really the ones who chronicle our history and maintain it. And every part of local history is tied to some event in American history or world history. And its those individual histories that paint a picture of the history of the country ... its all pieces of the puzzle," Millen said.

"And I just think theres nothing more important than keeping and maintaining and preserving history.

For more information about the Hunterdon County Historical Society or the administrator position, visit, call 908-782-1091 or email

Caroline Fassett can be reached at

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January 7th, 2020 at 6:47 pm

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