Stephanie Hill Wilchfort, who for the past eight years has served as president and chief executive of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, will be the next director and president of the Museum of the City of New York, the institution announced Tuesday.

“I’m really interested in telling stories at the Museum of the City of New York that are about a city of progress, not a city of perfection,” Wilchfort said in a phone interview.

Wilchfort, 47, succeeds Whitney Donhauser, who left in late 2022 to become the deputy director and chief advancement officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sarah Henry, who had served as the museum’s interim director since her departure, will return to her roles as chief curator and deputy director.

It was Wilchfort’s track record of winning support from corporations, institutions and individuals that made her stand out among the pool of candidates, William Vrattos, the chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, said in a statement.

The museum is celebrating its centennial this year. It was founded in 1923, just 25 years after the consolidation that made Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens parts of New York City, and it was originally housed in Gracie Mansion, which later became home to the city’s mayors. The museum moved to its home in East Harlem, on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, in 1932.

Wilchfort, a native of Brooklyn, said the Museum of the City of New York was one of the first museums that her mother, a daughter of immigrants who grew up in Washington Heights, recalled visiting as a child. The museum was special to her, Wilchfort said, because it felt like a reflection of the city’s diversity — and her own story.

“And I think the museum has an opportunity and obligation to be that place for every New Yorker,” she said.

The museum has yet to see its attendance figures return to prepandemic levels. It had 139,000 in-person visitors in the last fiscal year, down from 320,000 in the last full fiscal year before the pandemic. A spokeswoman, Meryl Cooper, said that school programs and international tourists had not fully returned.

During Wilchfort’s eight years at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, which she had led since 2015, she oversaw a 30 percent increase in visitors and a 50 percent increase in annual contributed revenue. The museum also raised $45 million in capital funds to finance projects including opening a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on the museums’s ground floor, a 180-seat auditorium and movie theater, a 20,000-square-foot rooftop terrace and a 1,500-square-foot art studio.

Wilchfort, who holds master’s degrees in finance and international economic policy from Columbia University, also previously served as the vice president of development at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, where her responsibilities included fund-raising, board development, government affairs and the museum’s $20 million capital campaign.

She will begin her new role in September.


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