It is a story of found and lost for two major Canadian art institutions.
The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which marked its 100th anniversary last year, is expected to announce shortly that it is hiring a U.S. museum professional as its new director and CEO. Meanwhile, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg near Toronto is searching for a new executive director after its board decided not to renew the contract of Victoria Dickenson, hired in March, 2011.
Sources say the ROM has chosen Joshua Basseches, currently deputy director of Salem's Peabody Essex Museum, 35 kilometres northeast of Boston, as its new, full-time head. Mr. Basseches is to replace interim ROM chief Mark Engstrom, named to the post in March this year after the departure of Janet Carding. The first female CEO of the ROM, Ms. Carding, British-born, came to Toronto from the Australian Museum in Sydney in the fall of 2010. She left the ROM almost six months before her five-year contract expired.
Contacted for comment on Friday about the new director, a ROM spokesperson said in an e-mail: "At this point, we cannot confirm a candidate as the process is not yet finished. As soon as there is news, there will be a formal announcement." A phone call to Mr. Basseches' office in Salem on Friday afternoon was not returned.
Mr. Basseches, 53 in December, will come to the ROM, Canada's largest museum devoted to exploring the world's natural and human histories, with impressive credentials and two decades of experience in the museum world. Before joining the Peabody Essex in 2004, he was executive director of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, starting in 1998. Earlier, he was a management consultant to sundry museums and cultural institutions, including Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass.; the New Bedford Whaling Museum; and the Lincoln Filene Center at Tufts University. Raised in Washington, D.C., he has also been manager of exhibition projects at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and assistant curator of the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon, MA. He has a strong interest in 19th century American art and is writing a book, Homer, Whistler, Church and the Paris World's Fair of 1867.
A post on the Peabody Essex website says Mr. Basseches is completing a PhD in art history at Boston University. He already has an M.A. in the subject from that university, plus a masters in business administration from Harvard Business School, and a B.A. in art history from Amherst College. His wife, Amy Perry, 50, is an environmental advocate.
Meanwhile, the board of trustees at the McMichael, famous for its cache of paintings by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, has appointed Nathalie Mercure, former chair of the Toronto French School and former corporate lawyer, as interim director. She was named on Sept. 29, the day the board announced it would not re-sign Ms. Dickenson, 65, as director of the collection and president of its art foundation. She agreed to resign as a result.
Ms. Dickenson joined the McMichael after a stint as chief knowledge officer for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Before the CMHR, she was head of Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History. At the McMichael, she succeeded Thomas Smart, who abruptly resigned in mid-2010 after being on the job a little over four years.
With Ms. Dickenson's contract up for renewal in early spring, 2016, the McMichael board was "looking out five or seven years and looking at what the requirements are from a strategic standpoint," McMichael chair Upkar Arora said in an interview with Metroland Media last month. "We just felt it was the right time to bring someone else [in] for the five to 10 years."