New director named for Pilgrim Society, Pilgrim Hall

Scott C. Smith

Folks will know from the very slight drawl that she isn’t from here. Folks should learn quickly, though, that Ann Berry intends to call Plymouth home and that she will know all there is about the Pilgrims and Plimoth in short order. She’s been ramping up on the latter for quite a while.

She wants to live in New England and she especially loves Plymouth. Why, she visited here just last summer and while here happened to tour Pilgrim Hall Museum and meet its director, Peggy Baker. Little did she know that Baker would announce her retirement as executive director of the Pilgrim Society and its museum at the end of the summer. And little did Baker know that Berry would become her successor.

The Board of the Trustees of the Pilgrim Society voted unanimously this week to appoint Berry to the position that Baker will give up after 15 years. The board’s Search Committee considered a couple of dozen applicants for the position, and after two months of study unanimously recommended Berry to the trustees for their consideration. Search Committee Chairman Norman Tucker presented an in-depth report to board members, who offered questions and discussion on the candidates and the process. Tucker, Baker and board President Barrie Young fielded the questions and guided discussion, and soon the serious looks of earnest caretakers of the country’s oldest continuously operating museum turned to smiles of approval. A vote was called, and every hand in the room went up.

Baker will depart the Pilgrim Society and museum in late February, having given a six-month notice. She has served as executive director for 15 years, her era culminating with the successful campaign to build a significant addition to the nearly 200-year-old museum on Court Street and modernize the building’s facilities. The addition opened in May 2008 and, thanks to a feisty fundraising campaign Baker and the trustees waged, is completely paid. It extends north from the original building and houses temporary exhibits such as “18th Century Treasures,” which filled the space for much of last year with attire and artifacts of all types from the 1700s, including a provocative modeling job to showcase it, and the present Dutch exhibit, which runs until the end of the year depicting Pilgrim life in the Netherlands for the decade prior to their finally leaving for America. This year mark’s the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arrival there.

The museum’s associate director and curator, Stephen O’Neil, got his inspiration for the 18th Century Treasures exhibit from looking at a fashion magazine’s treatment of the Jamestown experience.


Ann Berry currently serves as the director of administration and operations for Historic Jamestowne.

The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities – known as Preservation Virginia – oversees Historic Jamestowne jointly with the National Park Service. In early 1990 Preservation Virginia and the Park Service jointly pursued a successful celebration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary in 2007 – Jamestown is also known as “America’s Birthplace.” Berry was deeply involved in planning special events and community improvements for the event.

Now she will come to Plymouth and be on hand to help plan the 400th anniversary of “America’s Hometown.”

Berry brings considerable experience in non-profit museum administration and Colonial history to her new position, both of which are significant features in the legacy Baker will leave behind.

“I am honored to be entrusted with the care of the Pilgrim Society and Pilgrim Hall Museum at this significant time in its history,” Berry said. “With the approaching 200th anniversary of the Society and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims, I am excited to have the opportunity to bring new programs to the public in the newly renovated and expanded Pilgrim Hall Museum. I look forward to becoming a part of the Plymouth community in the New Year.”

Baker will depart her position with the museum in strong standing and to accolades of her many ardent supporters among the Pilgrim Society’s trustees. Berry will be prepared to look to the future.

“We certainly will miss the outstanding leadership of Peg Baker as she brought Pilgrim Hall Museum through a period of strong growth and recognition,” Young said. “At the same time, we’re pleased to be able to name Ann Berry as her successor. Ann’s scholastic and development experience at Jamestown will not only help the museum in the challenging years ahead, but should provide assistance to Plymouth itself as we move closer to the 400th anniversary celebration in 2020.”

Berry has developed volunteer programs essential to a successful non-profit museum, as well as tours, lectures and exhibits, and she has implemented a computerized inventory and sales system. She has written and spoken extensively on behalf of Preservation Virginia and Historic Jamestowne. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Colonial American Studies and her master’s degree in Museum Education from The College of William and Mary, in Virginia. She has been employed with Preservation Virginia since 1991, and before that she worked as program coordinator, curator and in other capacities in museums throughout the state.