The Museum of the City of New York announced on Tuesday that Stephanie Hill Wilchfort, who has led the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the last eight years, would take over as its next director and president.
Whitney Donhauser, the previous director, departed in late 2022 to become the deputy director and chief advancement officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Wilchfort, aged 47, will take over in this role. After serving as temporary director, Sarah Henry will go back to becoming the museum’s principal curator and deputy director.
The chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, William Vrattos, said in a statement that Wilchfort stood out among the contenders because of her history of garnering funding from businesses, organisations, and people.
This year marks the centenary of the museum’s founding. It was established in 1923, just 25 years after the amalgamation that made Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens portions of New York City, and it was first located in Gracie Mansion. The museum’s current location on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street in East Harlem dates back to 1932.
Wilchfort, a resident of Brooklyn, noted that her mother, the daughter of immigrants who grew up in Washington Heights, remembered the Museum of the City of New York as one of the first museums she had ever visited. Wilchfort said that the museum has particular meaning for her since it represented the city’s variety as well as her own life.
Museum attendance has not yet recovered to pre-epidemic levels. From 320,000 in the entire fiscal year before to the pandemic, attendance dropped to 139,000 in the most recent fiscal year. Meryl Cooper, a company spokesperson, said that school activities and overseas visitors were still on the decline.
Wilchfort, who has been the director of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights since 2015, presided over a 30 percent rise in attendance and a 50 percent increase in yearly donated funds during her eight years there. The museum also received $45 million in capital funding, which were used to build a rooftop terrace of 20,000 square feet and a 1,500 square foot art studio, as well as a 180-seat auditorium and movie theatre, and a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on the museum’s ground floor.
Wilchfort, a Columbia University graduate with master’s degrees in finance and international economic policy, has worked as the vice president of development at the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum, where her duties included fundraising, board development, government affairs, and a $20 million capital campaign.