David Crosson brings to Bryan & Jordan nearly four decades of successful experience leading academic, public, and private cultural organizations throughout the country. He was the founding executive director of three new organizations and has led institutions through periods of momentous change and strategic redefinition. His experience includes children’s museums, academic special collections, historic sites and house museums, outdoor sites, state agencies, historic preservation, history curriculum, non-traditional community partnerships, and innovative interpretive programs. He has led capital campaigns that have raised over $47 million.
Crosson has served in a variety of national professional leadership positions, including Treasurer and Chair of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). As Treasurer, he was instrumental in stabilizing the organization’s finances and outsourcing its publications programs. As chair of the Standing Committee on Standards and Ethics, Crosson drafted the first AASLH Statement of Professional Ethics in 1990.
Crosson has taught courses in museum management, professional ethics, and historic site administration at several institutions and professional training programs and has been a leader in the emerging national discussion on professional ethics. He has been both an Accreditation and Museum Assessment Program (MAP) reviewer for the American Association of Museums, as well as a grant reviewer for NEH, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and other state and local grant panels.
A native Iowan, David Crosson holds an undergraduate degree in education from Drake University, an M.A. in history from the University of Texas-Austin, and a certificate in nonprofit management from the Graduate School of Business, Columbia University. At twenty-nine years old, Crosson was granted tenure as Research Historian in the Western History Research Center (now the American Heritage Center) at the University of Wyoming.
In 1978 Crosson became executive director of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society, in Indiana. Over the next four years, the organization with three employees opened a new facility in a restored National Register building, increased annual private income by 350%, doubled membership income, and raised over a million dollars in capital. The new exhibits challenged historical organizations nationally to address contemporary subjects and controversial interpretations. Because of involvement of the Black community in its creation and interpretation, an exhibit on the Ku Klux Klan successfully opened two weeks after an assassination attempt on national Urban League President Vernon Jordan at a local hotel.
Crosson was appointed as first executive director of The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum in 1982. He led a successful million dollar opening campaign and secured a private investment that totally covered renting and purchasing the building for $10 million over ten years. Once more, he directed adaptive re-use of a National Register building. The Museum expanded from 3,000 to 20,000 square feet in its second year.
As administrator (executive director) of the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) from 1985-95, Crosson again led a successful capital campaign, supervised a large facilities project, and significantly broadened the purpose, scope, and impact of the organization. A division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, SHSI is a state agency responsible for two separate research centers, the State Archives, state history museum, State Historic Preservation Office, history education and history organization support services, and seven historic sites
Crosson worked directly with the governor’s office to raise $15 million of private funds and led the agency in constructing and moving to a new 220,000 square foot facility, which opened in 1987. He worked with the legislature to increase the appropriated budget by 150%, create and fund a statewide historical resource grant program, and create the Iowa Sesquicentennial Commission, on which he also served. As State historic Preservtion Officer, Crosson insisted on providing communities the tools and incentives they needed to preserve their resources at the most direct and local level. Crosson chaired the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Teaching of Iowa History, which resulted in both a curriculum and a strategy for improving classroom teaching.
When his wife, Natalie Hala, was appointed executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, IL, David followed her to become the first director of Prairie Avenue House Museums, which operated two house museums in Chicago’s Near South Side. In two years, Crosson focused the new organization on interpreting the historical context and evolution of an urban neighborhood and invited Chicago’s Black community to re-establish a relationship with the Clarke House, which for fifty years had been the center of a thriving urban church.
In 1997, Crosson was called to California to become the first President and CEO of what then was called the History Museums of San José, a private organization newly created to assume contract management responsibility for the City-owned historical museum and archives. Over the next nine years, Crosson helped redefined the mission and repositioned the organization within the heart of Silicon Valley as History San José, and he established strong community partnerships within a demographic as mobile and diverse as any in the country.
History San José became an active center of community-building during Crosson’s tenure, and the central campus was transformed from a random collection of unrelated new and historic buildings in a city park into a community of small, interdependent, culture-specific museums that represented and served the broader community. The organization reached out to previously excluded communities through programs like a children’s musical theatre production on César Chávez and an exhibit on the San José State University athletes who became the symbols of protest at the 1968 Olympics.
In 2006 Crosson moved up the peninsula to become executive director of the California Historical Society, a totally private organization located in the heart of the San Francisco’s arts district. The Board quickly adopted a strategy focused on partnerships with community-based organizations, statewide collaborations, and improving statewide history teaching. The new collaborations ranged from the Chinese Historical Society of America to the variety of agencies serving the homeless community and the neighborhood improvement organizations. Under Crosson’s leadership, CHS became an active partner within a coalition of education organizations seeking to improve both the quantity and quality of history teaching in California’s school classrooms. He retired from the California historical Society in July 2011.
David Crosson is married to Natalie Hala, an arts administrator in San Francisco. They have three grown children and 7 grandchildren, all regrettably living thousands of miles from the Bay.