Noelle Trent, a longtime museum professional who specializes in African American history and culture, has been named president and chief executive of the Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, the museum announced Tuesday.
Trent, who currently oversees interpretation, collections, and education at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, has broad experience in museum management, spanning curatorial and educational departments.
“I am honored and excited to join the Museum of African American History,” Trent said in a statement. “Together, with an experienced senior staff and an engaged and supportive board, I am confident that we will expand MAAH’s reach, influence, and impact throughout the region and across the country.”
Trent succeeds Leon Wilson, who abruptly departed the museum last May. Her appointment follows a national search to lead the museum. She formally begins her duties on June 12.
At the the National Civil Rights Museum, Trent has worked on major exhibitions, as well as acquisitions, education programming, interpretation, and community outreach. She also developed a series of exhibitions in response to current events, in addition to coordinating large events such as Ruby Bridges Reading Festival, and MLK50, which marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
She currently serves as board vice president for the Association of African American Museums, and she’s active in several national museum associations, including the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State & Local History.
In Boston, Trent will soon focus on planning exhibitions, programming, and other events for a pair of upcoming anniversaries: the bicentennial of the African Meeting House in Nantucket in 2025, and the 230th anniversary of the founding of the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill the following year.
Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, chair of MAAH’s board, said Trent’s appointment “culminates a three-year capacity building initiative that reinforces the museum’s commitment to excellence in education and community engagement.”
“The entire Board is confident that her expertise, deep relationships in the national museum community, and stellar reputation will help propel MAAH well into the future and position our exhibits, and historic spaces as ‘must see’ sites in Boston and Nantucket,” she said in a statement.
Born in Boston, Trent earned a PhD from Howard University, where she focused on the life and work of 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
She previously worked on a contract basis with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and as a park ranger at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, both in Washington, D.C.
Search committee member Auntaneshia Staveloz praised Trent’s qualifications in a statement.
“Given her experience in education, collections, and historic sites and her background in new and emerging technologies, Dr. Trent is the complete package,” said Staveloz, a supervisory program manager at National Museum of African American History and Culture. “She is poised to hit the ground running and will take MAAH to the next level by serving as a community anchor and elevating the organization to regional and national prominence.”