Credited with leading transformational change, President and CEO Laura Lott steps down in June
For Immediate Release
ARLINGTON, VA – The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, today announced that Laura Lott, President and CEO, will step down from her position, effective June 15, 2023. Brooke Leonard, Chief of Staff, will serve as interim CEO while the AAM Board of Directors conducts a nationwide search for the Alliance’s next leader.
Lott will remain in the museum field, joining the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. this summer as administrator, leading the operational, architecture, and sustainability strategy at one of the most visited and largest art museums in the world.
“Laura is a visionary and dynamic leader, who created a stronger, more relevant, inclusive, and sustainable AAM,” outgoing AAM Board Chair Chevy Humphrey. “During her 13 years at AAM, Laura worked with the board of directors to develop and implement two strategic plans to drive organizational change and impact, build external support for museums as essential community infrastructure and education institutions, and call for museums to center equity and excellence.”
The first woman to lead AAM in its over 110-year history, Lott served as president and CEO since 2015, and as AAM’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer from 2010-2015. “It has been an honor to serve our broad Alliance for the past 13 years,” she said. “Thanks to incredible board leadership and support, a very talented and dedicated staff team, 35,000 members, and thousands of generous volunteers and tenacious museum advocates, I am very proud of our collective accomplishments toward our vision of a world informed and enriched by thriving museums.”
Lott successfully led AAM and the field through threats to eliminate the federal cultural agencies, critical museum funding sources for many communities, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic which threatened to shutter one-third of US museums. Publishing the first museum-focused economic impact study, conducting public opinion polling, and leading robust media campaigns, she drew attention to museums’ social and community impacts—and called for prioritizing museum funding at a national level. An unprecedented $3 billion in federal relief funding saved thousands of museum jobs and many museums from permanent closure during the pandemic. Funding for the Office of Museum Services at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) increased 80% during her tenure.
Building on the work of many people over decades, Lott established Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) as a priority focus area for the Alliance in 2016, integrating principles of DEAI across all of AAM’s policies and programs. She envisioned and secured AAM’s largest philanthropic investment to develop the groundbreaking program Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion (2019-2022) in partnership with the Ford, Alice Walton, and Mellon Foundations. This work to develop and implement best practices in diversifying museum boards, implement equitable governance practices, and infuse DEAI standards into the field’s accreditation programs will continue with AAM’s first-ever IMLS National Leadership Grant, Excellence in DEAI, bolstered by the contributions of many partners within and outside the museum field.
Following a multi-year study—including member surveys and working groups to review the Alliance’s current structures and to envision more inclusive, equitable, and relevant programs for all museum professionals—the AAM team recently announced a $1 million investment in the Museum Community. Over the next several years, this investment will deliver new AAM member benefits, including expanded opportunities for the museum community to connect and learn from each other, obtain professional training, and participate in national leadership and volunteer opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Incoming AAM Board Chair Jorge Zamanillo said, “Our growing Alliance is a crucial resource for fieldwide thought leadership and advocacy and a platform for museum professionals to connect and learn. The entire AAM community looks forward to celebrating Laura’s tenure in the coming months, including at the upcoming AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Denver, and to finding our next leader who will take the Alliance into an exciting future ahead.”
About the American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the only organization representing the entire museum field, from art and history museums to science centers and zoos. Since 1906, we have been championing museums through advocacy and providing museum professionals with the resources, knowledge, inspiration, and connections they need to move the field forward. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.