NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – South County Museum Executive Director and longtime member James Crothers has announced he’s retiring from his post at the end of the year.
Crothers became executive director in 2006, and before that served as associate director from 2004.
The executive director position will be filled by Associate Director Heather Pouliot Kisyliwicz, whom Crothers hired earlier this year. It’s a stable transition in the strange year of COVID, which caused the museum to close to visitors for most of its crucial spring, summer and autumn season.
“I’m not moving anywhere, I just think it’s time,” Crothers, a Wakefield resident, said. “(Kisyliwicz) has been learning the ropes and said she was interested in becoming director. This will give her the opportunity to implement some plans that she has. I’ve been here long enough, it’s time to turn the reins over to somebody else.”
The museum was able to open on a limited basis after instituting COVID precautions in mid-July. The museum didn’t charge admission to visitors.
“We figured that’s the least we could do for the community,” he said.
As director, Crothers oversaw and directed the museum and its grounds, including seven buildings, a farmhouse and farm exhibit, the Sprague stable runs and a historic cemetery.
In a release, the museum praised Crothers as a dynamic and engaging speaker, often called on to share the stories of South County, Canonchet Farm and the museum, which is entering its 88th year in 2021.
“I’m positive that we’re in good hands. There’s a great board (of directors) that I’ve worked with since the beginning. The current board is very strong, very supportive. I think we’re in good shape.”
The blacksmith forge and letterpress print shop exhibit were two of his notable efforts to promote historic trades at the museum.
Crothers learned his skills as a blacksmith under the direction of Bill Smith as a volunteer starting in 1989. Blacksmithing at the museum became a signature feature with demonstrations, private lessons and summer camps.
The the letterpress print shop collection with Ed Shunney as curator evolved from an interesting display of artifacts to a working exhibit of presses spanning 100 years. Crothers’ enthusiasm for the historic trade gave Shunney the impetus to encourage visitors to step back in time and appreciate the rapidly disappearing industrial history of the technique of letterpress printing.
Crothers’ experience teaching at the high school and college level also served him well. He provided a welcoming atmosphere to museum visitors, volunteers and people passing through on their daily walks.
The museum’s Board of Directors has honored him with the title of Museum Storyteller and Historian.
The museum typically opens during the first week in May, although it was closed last year and it’s still questionable if it will open normally again next year.
Crothers said he and his wife enjoy travel, but that he would also perhaps return to his volunteer roots and do some demonstrations in the museum’s blacksmith shop in the future.