Marsha L. Semmel, principal of Marsha Semmel Consulting, is an independent consultant working with foundations, museums, libraries, and other cultural and educational organizations on topics that include learning (including early learning), 21st century skills, strategic partnerships and collaborations, cultural policy, strategic planning and leadership development.
Among her current affiliations is Senior Advisor to the National Center on Science and Civic Engagement’s SENCER-ISE project (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities-Informal Science Education), a series of partnerships between higher education and informal science. She is also Adjunct Faculty at the Bank Street College of Education’s Graduate School of Education in the Leadership in Museum Education Program.
From 2013-15, Semmel served as Senior Advisor to the Noyce Leadership Institute (NLI), a global initiative of the Noyce Foundation that envisioned an essential and transformative role for organizations that engage their publics in crucial science and technology issues. NLI worked with executive-level leaders to build their capacity to serve as change agents within their organizations and communities.
Since 2014, she has been a faculty member for the George Washington University-Smithsonian Institution Affiliations 21st Century Museum Leadership Seminar. In 2015, Semmel served on the planning committee and as faculty for the American Alliance of Museums/Getty Foundation seminars and web casts devoted to “Perspectives on Museum Leadership at All Levels.” In conjunction with this program, she authored “Museum Leadership in a Hyper-Connected World: Six Skills for Leaders at All Levels,” which was published in the May 2015 Museum News.
Her career has included stints at the major U.S. cultural agencies, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), where from 2003-2013, she served as the agency’s first director for strategic partnerships, deputy director for the Office of Museum Services, and, from March 2010 through January 2011, acting IMLS director. At IMLS, Semmel oversaw partnerships with other federal agencies, foundations, and non-governmental organizations. She helped create and implement the Partnership for a Nation of Learners with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; played a formative role in funding and implementing Connecting to Collections: A Call to Action; led the agency’s initiative Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills; spearheaded a partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for teen-focused “learning labs” in libraries and museums; and launched an early learning partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading that included a policy report, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners, and related funding opportunities. In addition, Marsha played a pivotal role in two international museum/library gatherings co-convened by IMLS and the Salzburg Global Forum: Connecting to the World’s Collections: Making the Case for the Conservation and Preservation of Our Cultural Heritage and Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture.
From 1998 to 2002, Ms. Semmel was president and CEO of the Women of the West Museum, in Denver, Colorado. Prior to that, she was president and CEO of Conner Prairie, a living-history museum near Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1984 to 1996, she worked at the National Endowment for the Humanities, a US Federal cultural agency in Washington, DC, where, from 1993 to 1996, she was director of the Division of Public Programs, which supported humanities projects in museums, libraries, and public media.
Semmel has also worked at the Smithsonian Institution; the B’nai B’rith National Jewish Museum, in Washington DC; and The Taft Museum, in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1979, she was a fellow in the Museums Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served on the boards of the American Alliance of Museums, the Colorado Digitization Program, and ArtTable, a national organization for professional women in leadership positions in the visual arts. She serves on the program committee for Generations United, an organization promoting programs and policies stimulating intergenerational cooperation and collaboration. She currently is vice chair of the Arlington Arts Commission and on the Board of Trustees of the Council of American Jewish Museums. She also serves as an advisor to the George Washington University’s graduate program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts and on the Harvard Family Research Project’s Advisory Panel on Family Engagement.
Semmel is a frequent speaker and writer on cultural collaborations; 21st century skills and the role of new technologies in learning; community engagement; leadership for the future; and museums and public value. She authored the Forewords to The Museum Experience Revisited by John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking and Leadership Matters by Anne W. Ackerson and Joan H. Baldwin; “Reflections on Museums and Change, 2012” in Museums and the Paradox of Change, Third Edition by Robert R. Janes and “Museums and Public Value: A U.S. Cultural Agency Example,” in Museums and Public Value: Creating Sustainable Futures, edited by Carol A Scott.
Marsha L. Semmel
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