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Director Quits Black History Museum



Just a year after taking the reins at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Nicole Hood is leaving to spend more time with her family.

"Everybody's skeptical when you use those terms," Stacy Burrs, chair of the museum's board, says of the proverbial "family" line. "But this is one of those cases where that is the fact of the matter."

Hood was serving as interim director, with the expectation that she'd assume the post permanently. Her departure comes during a time of transition for many historical institutions in the city -- and a time of financial challenges for the museum.

Alexander Wise left the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar in June. In December, Cynthia MacLeod, who was superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, left Richmond for a prestigious post with the National Park Service in Philadelphia. At the end of 2008 Charlie Bryan will leave the Virginia Historical Society after 20 years.

A stormy financial market is dampening private donations at the Black History Museum, and the state recently announced it couldn't fund nongovernmental nonprofits, taking a $30,000 bite out of the museum's budget.

Nevertheless, Hood oversaw a dynamic period for the center that had gone leaderless for two years. She brought in $250,000 in fundraising, along with several temporary exhibits, and provided a home for the Virginia Freedmen Extraction and Indexing Project, a volunteer effort to digitize genealogy records.

She's proud of what she achieved in her year there, she says, but with two young daughters, "the museum needs someone who can make an even stronger commitment than I can at this time."

Burrs says the search is on for a new director, which he expects to take about four months. "We're trying to build an important community institution, one that I'd call almost critical," he says. "For the African-American community, it's important to have strong institutions."

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