Historical group in hunt for director

Bartholomew County Historical Society’s executive director has resigned.

A search is on for an interim administrator to head the 94-year-old organization after Julie Hughes’ resignation went into effect Nov. 20, said Dr. Tamara Iorio, president of the historical society board of directors.

Iorio said she anticipates the society will evaluate staffing needs before moving forward to find a long-term director.

Hughes, 51, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication from Purdue University, said she plans to attend Indiana University in Bloomington full time to earn a master’s degree in history.

With the hope of focusing her studies on history as it relates to the culinary arts, Hughes said she is fulfilling a lifelong dream.

She also plans to spend time helping to care for an ill relative, she said.

At the same time, the society’s education manager and Hughes’ life partner, Anna Barnett, has accepted a position with the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, Iorio said.

Both Hughes and Barnett intend to continue living in their current Bartholomew County residence, since Columbus is a convenient commuting distance for both of them, Hughes said.

One key factor in Hughes’ decision is the near completion of a fundraising feasibility study regarding a possible move for the historical society, she said. When the purchase of the former Brad’s Furniture Gallery at 538 Washington St. was announced by the organization last December, the historical society announced its desire to spend $1.8 million in a new headquarters and museum during the next three to five years.

The board hired John Guthrie of Louisville as a consultant and director of campaign planning to work with the Columbus-based staff and board members to develop a capital campaign, Iorio said.

When Guthrie — who works for Ashley | Rountree & Associates — completes the fundraising feasibility study, the local campaign is expected to begin, Hughes said.

By stepping down now, rather than after that campaign begins, Hughes said she believes it will serve the best interests of the organization and provide savings at a time when the society needs it the most, she said.

Hughes’ resignation will not change the society’s overall goals, board member Maureen Weikert said.

While stepping down, Hughes said both she and Barnett plan to continue contributing to both the society and campaign as volunteers. Hughes has held the top position with the Bartholomew County Historical Society since 2008.

Prior to coming to Columbus, the Washington, Indiana, native was in charge of 60 historic sites as an executive with the Ohio Historical Society.

She also spent five years as manager of public programs for Conner Prairie, an interactive living history museum in Fishers. Prior to that, she spent nine years working for various nonprofits in the Lafayette area, including the Tippecanoe County Library.

Since moving to Columbus seven years ago, Hughes has been active with Historic Columbus and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

A direct descendant of American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, Hughes also serves on the board of directors of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.