Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact: Betsy Momich
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
412.622.3236
MomichB@carnegiemuseums.org

June 16, 2015

   

Eric Dorfman named Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History

PITTSBURGH, Pa.…Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh today announced that Eric Dorfman, Ph.D., has been named director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Dr. Dorfman is currently director of New Zealand’s Whanganui Regional Museum and Ward Observatory in Whanganui, New Zealand. Founded in 1890, the museum houses collections of both national and international significance and is governed by a unique bi-cultural board, with Maori (the country’s indigenous people) comprising one half of the board. Ward Observatory opened in 1901 and houses New Zealand’s largest refracting telescope.

Since joining Whanganui Museum in 2010, Dr. Dorfman has worked to redraft museum strategy, led the redevelopment of the museum’s visitor experiences, founded a center of research excellence on the extinct moa (nine species of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand), initiated the museum’s online collections program, and took over operation of Ward Observatory. The museum has quadrupled annual visitation over the past four years—from 19,000 visitors to 74,000. Dr. Dorfman is an adjunct lecturer in museum studies with Victoria University of Wellington, and since 2013 has served as president of the International Council of Museums’ Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History (ICOM NATHIST).

“We are very lucky to have recruited Eric to the Museum of Natural History,” said Jo Ellen Parker, Ph.D., president and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. “His outstanding work at the Whanganui Museum demonstrates all the values of innovation, audience focus, social inclusiveness, and business acumen that are central to our aspirations for Carnegie Museums. His expertise in environmental science is accompanied by a passionate commitment to the arts: he is a true Renaissance man poised to lead a distinguished museum.”

A California native with a masters of marine science from San Jose University/Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, Dr. Dorfman first traveled to the southern hemisphere to study water birds as part of a funded project at the University of Sydney, where he would go on to earn a doctor of philosophy in ecology. He then served as the principal regional scientist for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, where he led the development of creative projects with the fine arts community to raise awareness for conservation. In 2003, he took on the role of senior manager of science development at New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, where he supervised scholarly research and led the creation of the institution’s technology and natural history visitor experiences. Prior to his current post, he was executive director of Eklektus Inc., a company that developed and implemented major exhibitions for clients such as The Australian Museum and the New Zealand Post.

“I am incredibly fortunate to be joining Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the great natural history museums in the United States, as its new director,” Dr. Dorfman said. “One of the things that was so enticing to me is the chance to contribute to a family of museums, with opportunities for cross-pollination across the Carnegie Museums institution. The nexus of art and science is something that is being explored today in exciting ways. So, for me, this role is about taking something that is fantastic and making it even better.

“The future of natural history museums as a whole is huge because we are looking to interpret not just for the public but for public planners and strategic thinkers,” he added. “We bring the past into the future through our collections. When the evidence around you isn’t there anymore, you turn to museums.”

Before leaving the United States, Dr. Dorfman received early training at the California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium and the Los Angeles Zoo. He is a self-professed dinosaur enthusiast, a conservationist, a scientific illustrator, an opera singer from his youth, and a prolific author, having published four books—with another on the way—on natural history, climate change, as well as children’s fiction and scholarly articles on museology and ecology.

“Eric has an impressive resume, with proven experience in adapting a natural history museum model to the 21st-century reality,” said Lee Foster, chair of the Museum of Natural History board and a life trustee of Carnegie Museums. “His scientific credentials coupled with his management skills and philosophy of collaboration make him an ideal leader for the Museum of Natural History and a strong member of the Carnegie Museums leadership team.”

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. The museum generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures.

Established 120 years ago by Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a collection of four distinctive museums: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. The museums reached more than 1.3 million people a year through exhibitions, educational programs, outreach activities, and special events.

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Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website, www.carnegiemnh.org.