Tissot stepping down after a decade as historical museum director

Visits spiked tenfold, operating budget doubled on her watch

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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The Clark County Historical Museum, 1911 Main St., has operated in Vancouver’s 1909 Carnegie Library since 1964.

Susan Tissot, who has been executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum for 10.5 years, will leave in May for a job in California.

Tissot will become executive director of the Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation in Eureka, Calif.

The move results from several personal and family factors coming into alignment, Tissot said Wednesday afternoon.

She will join husband Brian Tissot, who left the faculty of Washington State University Vancouver to become director of Humboldt State University's marine laboratory in Trinidad, Calif.

"It's an opportunity for my husband. Our son is graduating (from high school), and we will be empty-nesters this summer. The time is right for a big change," she said.

"I do have a personal philosophy," Tissot continued. "I've been here 101/2 years. No nonprofit should have the same executive director for 20 years. You need new blood, fresh eyes. It's a healthy move for the historical society. My successor will come in the door and take it to the next level."

Tissot was hired by the Clark County Historical Museum in September 2003 after 31/2 years as exhibits and public program coordinator at the Cowlitz County Historical Museum in Kelso.

She also spent five years as founding director of the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii. The Tissots moved to Clark County in 1998, when Brian Tissot was hired as a professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at Washington State University Vancouver.

The county museum position also includes the job of executive director of the Clark County Historical Society.

Tom Hunt, a member of the Historical Society's executive committee, said the job should be an attractive one -- thanks to Tissot.

"I think it's A-No. 1," Hunt said. "Susan built an extraordinarily successful program. It's an excellent place for someone to come in. There's still work to do, but it's a strong program."

In a news release that announced the transition, historical society officials said that annual museum visitation increased from 1,500 visitors in 2003 to 15,000 last year. There have been an additional 70,000 virtual visits from researchers worldwide using the museum's online resources.

Under Tissot's leadership, the museum's operating budget has doubled. Community and government partnerships have resulted

in nearly $1 million in improvements to the 115-year-old Carnegie library that houses the museum, including handicap accessibility.

According to the job description, the executive director will provide leadership and administration for the historical society and museum, including planning, organizing and directing all operational fund-raising and programmatic aspects of the organization. A salary range was not listed.

The job requirements include a master's degree, a minimum of five years in museum management and a demonstrated proficiency in fundraising.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.