Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library broke a long tradition of searching for new blood to head the former du Pont estate by naming its longtime gardening chief Chris Strand as the new director and CEO.
Strand had been serving as the Brown Harrington director of Garden and Estate since 2005, overseeing the Winterthur’s nearly 1,000 acres.
He has been heavily involved in many aspects of the museum’s exhibits and programs, including facilities and security. He headed the Winterthur Garden Follies exhibition, which placed structures around the grounds as focal points in various gardens, and oversees its many garden programs, such as events in its children’s garden, the Enchanted Woods.
Strand has been serving as interim CEO since the May departure this year of former CEO Carol Cadou.
“Chris is so skilled in so many areas—fundraising, morale raising, communication,” said Kathy P. Booth, chair of the Winterthur Board of Trustees, in a press release. “The Board is thrilled to have someone who knows Winterthur so well.”
Strand will remain responsible for all aspects of museum, library, and garden operations, including management of Winterthur’s academic programs through the University of Delaware, fundraising, board relations, long-range planning, budget oversight, and daily coordination of the senior management team in service of Winterthur’s mission.
“I am pleased and honored to be stepping into this role at this moment in Winterthur’s history,” Strand said in the press release. “I have really enjoyed working with the Board of Trustees and the staff over the past several months. The Trustees, staff, and our Members are a community that is very dedicated to Winterthur’s success. What they want most is to share this wonderful place with our friends and neighbors and that is an exciting and energizing challenge.”
Prior to joining Winterthur, he worked as director of Green Spring Gardens in Fairfax County, Virginia, from January 1998 to May 2005, managing its evolution from a private property to a public garden and historic site, and as outreach horticulturist at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University from July 1993 to January 1998.
Strand earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology from the University of Colorado in 1989 and a master’s degree in Public Horticulture Administration with a certificate in Museum Studies through the Longwood Graduate Program Fellowship of the University of Delaware in 1992.
Winterthur is the former homestead of H.F. du Pont, who turned this 175-room home into a public museum in the 1950s. du Pont was known for embracing American antiques and decor at a time when European antiques were the rage. He also adored gardening and entertaining, choosing the food and decor for parties there.
Beyond serving as a museum, Winterthur also is a bastion of expertise on all kinds of decorative arts, including furniture, textiles, ceramics, Dutch crafts, paintings and more. Its elite program with the University of Delaware trains 10 people in each class as conservation experts, and graduates can be found in world-class museums and art institutions around the world.
“The Covid-19 pandemic, recent storm damage on the estate, shifting tastes, changes in school visits, and new technologies all present challenges and opportunities,” Strand noted.
He credits the Winterthur staff for their creativity in meeting challenges and embracing new audiences while remaining good stewards of the property and collection.
“I am very proud of them, and because of them, I am incredibly optimistic about our future,” Strand said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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