Tim Garrity, who has been executive director of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society since 2010, hands the key of the Sound Schoolhouse to Raney Bench, who will take over the role Jan. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF MDI HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Historical society names leader

MOUNT DESERT — Raney Bench will be the next executive director of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, beginning in January. Tim Garrity, who has led the organization since 2010, will assume a new position as the society’s historian.

The organization plans to expand its educational and community outreach programming and increase its capacity for historical research, writing and teaching.

Garrity informed the board a year ago of his desire to make way for a new leader and a board-appointed task force worked to develop a plan for leadership succession.

“The task force decided to look first within the organization and recognized that Bench, a member of the society’s board, was extraordinarily well qualified,” a statement from the group said. “At the same time, she expressed her interest in leading the society into its next phase of growth.”

Bench recused herself from board discussions of the selection process and resigned from the board prior to applying for the position. In its meeting Monday, the board voted unanimously to endorse the succession plan and offer the position to Bench.

“We are fortunate to have a highly engaged and thoughtful board that is willing to invest time and talent in new ideas that project our vision into the future. I am very proud of their hard work in devising this plan,” Board President Bill Horner said. “Tim has done a magnificent job for nine years and now is excited to spend less time on nonprofit management and more time pursuing his passion for history. In Raney Bench, we have a superb leader who is going to launch a new and exciting phase of service to the community.”

Bench has more twenty years’ experience as a leader in the museum field. On MDI, she served as curator of education for the Abbe Museum from 2007 to 2014 and executive director of the Seal Cove Auto Museum since 2014. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Bachelor of Arts in Native American Studies from Humboldt State University.

“Raney has been an extraordinary executive director for the past six years,” said Liz McMullan, president of the Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Board of Directors. “We are so grateful for all of the energy, expertise, and effort she has put into the museum. We will miss her, and look forward to continuing our collaborative relationships with the historical society.”

Bench will be the fourth executive director of the historical society; it was founded in 1931, but was led by volunteers until the 1990s.

The society has plans to expand its educational outreach efforts, building on active relationships with Mount Desert Island schools, University of Maine, and College of the Atlantic.

“My goal is to help people of all ages and interests understand why history is important, and how it informs and transforms our lives today and into the future,” Bench said.

In addition to increasing the society’s capacity for historical research, writing and teaching, Garrity will continue to edit the society’s journal, Chebacco, develop age-appropriate curriculum materials for students to use in classroom projects, and support collaborative relationships with the University of Maine, College of the Atlantic and other institutions.

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