Kristin O’Lear to lead the Kodiak History Museum starting in May

The Kodiak History Museum hired a new executive director after months of searching. Kristin O’Lear, the new executive director, is bringing over a decade of experience in museums to the job. She arrives on the island in May. 

“I am so excited to be in this new role and to move to Kodiak and just get to know the community better and really invest myself in the organization,” she said. 

Kristin O’Lear was named the Kodiak History Museum’s executive director in early March, 2024. (Kodiak History Museum)

O’Lear is on her way from southern California and said she’s excited to bring her experience and learn from the community when she gets to the island. 

“There’s plenty of ideas that I have that I think will probably mold well, but KHM is obviously a different organization and they have a wonderful staff who’s already doing wonderful things,” the incoming executive director said. “So my first bit of time there is really getting to know the staff better, getting to know the organization better, and really understand from a staff and board perspective where they want the organization to go.” 

One of the museum’s recent projects was launching a new database of their historical objects last month.

Her predecessor left the job in July of last year and it’s been a long road for the Kodiak History Museum’s board to find a successor. The former board president, Robert Stauffer has served as the interim executive director in the meantime.

But since all of the board members are volunteers, they decided to sign with a hiring agency, the Foraker Group, to help find credible candidates. 

The Kodiak History Museum is in the oldest standing wood building in Alaska, May 31, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Toby Sullivan became the president of the board when Stauffer stepped down to be the museum’s interim director. 

“We wanted to look within the community first but if we didn’t find the ideal candidate, we wanted to also be able to look outside the community and we didn’t really have a process for doing that,” he said. 

Sullivan said the board opted to outsource the search to the Foraker group, which helps Alaska nonprofits find staff. 

After some talks with O’Lear, the board decided to fly her up to meet the staff before finalizing their decision. 

“We were looking for someone that would be able to work with/live in a community with a lot of different kinds of people from different backgrounds,” he said. “Ethnic, Indigenous, and everything else and she really hit the marks on all of that.” 

O’Lear said she plans to drive through Canada in the next month and arrive on the Tustumena in time for summer. 

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