When it came time for the Mark Twain Home Foundation’s Board of Directors to find a new executive director, they didn’t have to look far to find someone who is familiar with the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, and has experience performing the director’s duties. That person - Henry Sweets - was officially named to fill the position Monday.
“Henry is just a book of knowledge. We’re just very fortunate. It (making Sweets director) was kind of a no-brainer as far as I was concerned,” said David Mobley, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“He certainly was the logical decision,” said Dian Volkmer, the Foundation’s vice president. “We’ve known him for a long time and value tremendously all the gifts he would bring to the job. He’s certainly been a fabulous curator. He has a vast knowledge of all things Twain, has a wonderful rapport with people and is a very good manager.”
Among those applauding the appointment of Sweets is Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We would like to congratulate Mr. Sweets on his new position,” she said. “We look forward to working with him in promoting the Hannibal community and Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home.”
This is not Sweets’ first time at the helm of the Boyhood Home & Museum.
“I was director until about eight years ago when we did reorganizing here at the museum as far as our main staff went,” he said.
The job of executive director will not hold many surprises for Sweets.
“Having been there before in the position and then working with our past two executive directors, I certainly know the challenges that are there in terms of keeping the museum moving forward,” he said.
The Hannibal job came available when Cindy Lovell left to become director of the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn. While “glad to be returning to the directorship of the museum,” Sweets added he’s “still sad that we lost Cindy.”
“We were sad to see Cindy go, but feel very fortunate to have somebody like Henry to be able to step up and step in her shoes,” said Mobley.
Before departing, Lovell expressed the hope that Twain sites in Hartford and Hannibal might be able to partner in the future. Sweets echoed that sentiment Monday.
“We’ve always been friends with our colleagues at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, we just really haven’t collaborated on many projects. Now that Cindy Lovell is the head person in Hartford and she knows our museum inside and out, I do look forward to some cooperation on projects,” he said, citing as one possible example the annual teacher workshops that both sites host each summer.
Page 2 of 2 - In recent years, Sweets has held the title of “curator.” He will not be relinquishing those duties.
“At this point we will not be hiring another staff person,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to bring most of our records up to date so I will still be overseeing the curator’s duties as well as serving as director.”
A number of objectives lie ahead of Sweets.
“We’ll be looking at how to move a number of our projects forward and find the funding to get the Becky Thatcher House completed and then to look forward to the restoration of the Grant’s Drug Store Building,” he said.
Funding for such projects has been in short supply in recent years.
“The museum the last couple of years did not have the attendance we had expected to come,” said Sweets, citing the economy, high gas prices and rumors of flooding as factors in the shrinking the number of visitors. “I think one of the big challenges is going to be looking at sources of new revenue for the museum.”
According to Mobley, all museums today are facing either revitalizing current revenue streams or finding “another avenue of income to help keep the doors open.”
“Henry certainly has the background to figure that out,” he said.