New executive director shares vision for Har-Ber Village

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Although Har-Ber Village is known for providing a glimpse of the past, the antique museum is now looking toward the future with a new executive director, Amelia Chamberlain.

Chamberlain comes to Har-Ber Village after eight years as executive director at the 19th Century Willowbrook Village, a New England museum village in Newfield, Maine with similarities to Har-Ber Village.

“I had been looking for another position for a year and a half and hadn’t found the right match,” Chamberlain said.  “I found the position at Har-Ber Village posted on the website museumprofessionals.org, and I thought, ‘oh my gosh, there can’t be another place like Willowbrook!’  The more I thought about it, the more I thought I might be uniquely qualified for the position.”

The Har-Ber Village Board of Trustees agreed with her thinking and selected Chamberlain out of 40 candidates who applied for the position during their four-month search.

“Several factors drew us to Amelia,” said Pete Churchwell, president of the Har-Ber Village Board of Trustees.  “We liked her terrific background, education and experience and the fact that she had actually managed a facility for a length of time that was very similar to Har-Ber Village.  She had experienced some of the same issues that we are now experiencing and had great ideas about improving the museum, increasing revenues and making it more of a destination attraction.”

The 40 candidates were winnowed down to 10, for whom the Board conducted a telephone interview.  That list was narrowed to five and, after one candidate removed himself from consideration, the Board interviewed the remaining four.

“Any of the four could have done the job, but Amelia had that elusive ‘it’ quality that just resonated with us,” Churchwell said.  “Her enthusiasm, her personality, her quick mind, her grasp of the issues we were facing and her ideas to help us face the issues clearly made her the outstanding candidate.  And she certainly hasn’t disappointed us.  She is going to reinvigorate Har-Ber Village.”

Churchwell said that although Har-Ber Village’s previous executive director of 13 years, Jan Norman, had brought a professional business background, Chamberlain brings with her a professional museum background that is integral to the direction the museum is looking to take.

After 16 years as an educator, Chamberlain began her career in the museum field in 1991 with a position at the front desk of a museum in Oregon and worked her way up into management.  Through her job, she was trained extensively by several museum professionals who prepared her for the director positions at Willowbrook and Har-Ber Village.

Chamberlain moved to Oklahoma with her husband, Lee, and their dogs:  two Westies and a Cairn.  Although she leaves behind friends and the beautiful scenery of Maine, she looks forward to meeting new people, and she welcomes an Oklahoma winter where the amount of snow she will have to shovel will be significantly decreased.  She is also eager to see the seasons unfold overlooking Grand Lake.

“When I first visited, I thought ‘I could do this; there’s a big lake!’” said Chamberlain, who had always lived on a coastal state because of an internal pull to the ocean.  “We liked it here, liked the fact that it’s at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.  The town is also just so open, and I have already met so many people who have been welcoming and are happy to help Har-Ber Village.”

There are several opportunities at Har-Ber Village where Chamberlain will be able to use her past experiences to benefit the museum.  Part of her vision for Har-Ber Village is to make it more of an interactive museum where visitors can have a hands-on approach to history.

“We want to make Har-Ber Village into a cultural center that has more demonstrations, more ways that people can participate to learn about the past,” Chamberlain said. “We have to try to find ways to make a personal connection.”

Her first goal is to streamline the procedures at the Village from the standpoint of both the guest and the employee.  Expanding ways to create revenue, making the Village more theme-based and involving the community will also be on her agenda.  Other changes such as a relocation of the admissions desk to the Visitor Center and a modification in the flow of direction throughout the Village will be ready for the opening of the new season on March 1.

“When I first visited Har-Ber Village, I could see the potential, what this place could be,” Chamberlain said.  “There is so much raw material here.  So much has already been done at the Village, and now we have an opportunity to take all the best parts of Har-Ber Village and develop them, make them more interactive and exciting for our loyal members as well as to new visitors.”

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