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Museum, science center, woos new CEO from South Carolina

Hillary Spencer has more than 20 years of leadership experience in museums.

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  • | 8:56 a.m. April 11, 2021
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Courtesy. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature named museum executive Hillary Spencer CEO.
Courtesy. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature named museum executive Hillary Spencer CEO.
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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BRADENTON — The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature has named museum executive Hillary Spencer CEO.

Spencer replaces Brynne Anne Besio, the Bishop’s longtime CEO who retired in January. Spencer’s position is effective May 3, according to a statement, and Besio will help support the transition through a consulting role. The museum, in downtown Bradenton, has $3.92 million in annual revenue and $45.5 million in assets, according to its most recent public tax filings. It was formerly known as the South Florida museum and went through a major rebranding in 2019.

Spencer has more than 20 years of leadership experience in museums focused on art, anthropology, science and natural history, the release states. She has extensive experience in business development with a global network, focusing on traveling exhibitions and resource exchange. She’s also “a thought leader in educational leadership and is an active voice in the future of museums,” the release states.

Bishop was most recently president and CEO of The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, South Carolina. She also spent more than a decade at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In her role there as assistant director of global business development, Spencer managed the operations and strategy for the traveling exhibitions, planetarium shows and licensing and publishing. 

“The Bishop grew and evolved significantly during Brynne Anne’s tenure,” Bishop Chairman Brian Carter says in the release. “In the past five years alone, the Museum put a new emphasis on creating experiences to inspire curiosity and discovery, opened a new education wing as well as the Mosaic Backyard Universe, developed new work and education spaces, and even unveiled a new name and brand. Today, we’re looking forward to welcoming Hillary to the leadership role and are excited about what she will bring to the Museum.”

Spencer first visited the Bishop in 2016 when the AMNH exhibition Dinosaur Discoveries was on loan to the Museum. “I’ve been increasingly impressed with the Museum’s vision ever since,” she said. “I think we have an amazing opportunity to showcase the Museum as a thought leader in science and education while building upon the community-centered experience it offers.

The Bishop is the largest natural history museum on Florida's Gulf Coast. In addition to permanent exhibitions, The Bishop features a constantly changing lineup of special exhibitions. The Museum is also home to the all-digital Planetarium; the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat, focused on rehabilitating sick or injured manatees for their return to the wild; and the Mosaic Backyard Universe, an indoor exhibition built especially for young children and their families.


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