By J. Rodney Little, Director of the Maryland Historical Trust
For 15 years, Mary Alexander has administered the Maryland Historical Trust’s Museum Assistance Program, offering all manner of assistance to Maryland’s museums, particularly those classified as small.
Celebrating those efforts, the Small Museum Association honored Alexander’s outstanding contributions to the field by awarding her the association’s highest honor earlier this month. The Small Museum Association Award recognizes an individual who advances funding, professional growth and information dissemination to the small museum community on a regional or state level.
Alexander’s practice of “lending an ear” to those struggling with museum issues and giving advice has helped her help others overcome institutional challenges. In her words, she refuses to define the myriad issues that crop up as problems; rather, they are issues waiting to be resolved with the right information or resources.
Since the cessation of the state-supported grant fund in 2011, Alexander’s professional advice and counsel have become even more important to Maryland museum professionals. She takes her role as state museum “mentor” seriously, always ready to help or provide access to others with the necessary expertise.
The award was bestowed at the 2014 Small Museum Association Conference in Ocean City February 18, 2014. It was the 30th anniversary of a conference that has been organized by volunteers from small museums across the mid-Atlantic region. At the conference, Alexander delivered the keynote speech on the emerging profile of Maryland’s historical and cultural museums, the result of an MHT needs assessment. The final results of the assessment will be available in June.
Alexander, who earned a master’s of arts degree from the University of Connecticut and has worked in a wide variety of institutions, mainly in the Washington, D.C. area, came to MHT in 1999. In 2008, she completed a revision of her father’s landmark text, Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums.