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Society Director Takes On New Orleans Challenge

March 16, 2006
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer

David M. Kahn, the executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society Museum, is stepping down in May to take a job in New Orleans as the director of the Louisiana State Museum.

Kahn, who has headed the city museum for more than nine years, said that the opportunity to move to New Orleans and help a historic institution rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was an assignment he could not pass up.

"I've had a long-term interest in New Orleans and Louisiana history and culture," Kahn said.

He acquired a personal collection of 25 rare, first-edition books on Louisiana history, and said he has family there.

"There really isn't any other circumstance under which I can imagine leaving Hartford," he said.

Kahn begins his work in Louisiana on May 15, three days after leaving his post in Hartford.

In his new job, he will direct a network of five museums and historic sites dedicated to the story of Louisiana. The job will include rebuilding a museum building - built in 1835 - that lost its roof in the hurricane, and had its collections and exhibits relocated.

With the state of Louisiana deciding that a functional tourism industry is key to rebuilding, Kahn said that state museum funding will be kept at pre-Katrina levels. He will also oversee the museum's undertaking of an exhibit about Hurricane Katrina.

"What makes Louisiana unique is its history and its unique culture," Kahn said. "This is what attracts people there from all over the county and from all over the world."

"People coming to New Orleans in the future," Kahn said, "are going to want to know about Mardi Gras, they're going to want to know about jazz and they're also going to want to know about Katrina."

A search committee to replace Kahn has already been formed, said James Williams, chairman of the museum board. The board hopes to find a new director sometime between September and the end of the year, he said.

Marion Leonard, the museum's director of development, will act as interim director.

Some accomplishments under Kahn's leadership include:

The museum's decision in 2003 to assume responsibility for managing the Old State House, where a $3.5 million permanent exhibit on the history of Hartford will open in September. A new audio tour of the Old State House was introduced on March 4.

An expansion of audience-friendly and interactive exhibitions on topics ranging from 18th-century Connecticut furniture to the history of the comic book.

Improvements in cataloging the museum's collections and making them easier for the public to navigate.

"We were lucky to have somebody like David for the past nine years," Williams said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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