Published: February 11, 2003
DEERFIELD, MASS. – Philip Zea, vice president for museums and collections at the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) in Boston, has been named executive director of Historic Deerfield. One of this country’s leading authorities on the decorative arts and culture of rural America, Zea succeeds Donald R. Friary who retired on December 31, 2002 after 27 years as the museum’s executive director and secretary.
In announcing Zea’s appointment, Lynda McCurdy Hotra and Roger B. Parsons, co-chairs of the Trustee search committee, said, “The search committee worked diligently and thoughtfully for several months, reviewing an impressive list of candidates. We are confident that Phil will be a superb executive director and we are absolutely delighted to welcome him back to Historic Deerfield.”
A cum laude graduate of Wesleyan University with an MA from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur program in early American culture, Zea has been associated with Historic Deerfield for much of his professional career.
The year 2003 marks the anniversary of his arrival in the western Massachusetts village as a Historic Deerfield summer fellow when Zea and seven other college undergraduates studied early American history and the decorative arts with the program’s tutor, Friary.
In 1981, Zea joined the staff of Historic Deerfield, eventually succeeding the museum’s founding curator and first professional staff member, Joseph Peter Spang, upon his retirement in 1986. Zea, who participated in the 1995 Museum Management Institute, Getty Leadership Institute, in Berkeley, Calif., served as deputy director and chief curator of Historic Deerfield until 1999 when he was named curator of furniture of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a position he held until joining the SPNEA in 2001.
A consultant to museums and historical societies on the topics of early furniture, clocks and historical interpretation, Zea worked with Historic Deerfield trustees and staff to make the museum’s Flynt Center of Early New England Life a reality.
He was curator of the center’s opening exhibition, “Useful Improvements, Innumerable Temptations: Pursuing Refinement in Rural New England, 1750-1850” in 1998 and is the author of the accompanying catalog.
Zea is a member of the board of trustees of the Decorative Arts Trust and the editorial advisory boards of both the Chipstone Foundation’s American Furniture and SPNEA’s Old-Time New England. His research has appeared in numerous publications and professional journals.
He was guest curator of furniture for the landmark exhibition “The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635-1820.” Zea is also co-author of Clock Making in New England, 1725-1825: An Interpretation of the Old Sturbridge Village Collection (1992) with Robert C. Cheney and The Dunlap Cabinetmakers: A Tradition in Craftsmanship (1994) with Donald Dunlap.
Commenting on his appointment as executive director of Historic Deerfield, Zea said, “Historic Deerfield is one of the leading history museums in the country, thanks to superb collections, early architecture, an outstanding research library, a dedicated staff and an established constituency that loves Deerfield for both its content and beauty. Having already served as a staff member in Deerfield for 18 years, I know the museum’s tradition and potential in both education and entertainment. Deerfield’s commitment to excellence and a welcoming spirit are well established and a great foundation for finding new ways to teach history to the American public.”
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