Anita Kassof is proud of the work she and her staff have done to guide the Baltimore Museum of Industry through turbulent times.
“I can easily mark the divide between the two realities, before and after the pandemic,” said Kassof, museum executive director since 2015. “The ‘before’ was a time of large in-person meetings and easy workplace banter. The ‘after’ is a blur of Zoom calls and careening budget projections.”
The constant for Kassof has been her leadership style. “It turns out that the qualities of leadership that I value and that I aspire to practice are equally effective in good times and bad.”
Kassof empowers her staff to help come up with solutions, and they often come through. For example, when the museum lost essential income from school field trips, she embraced a staff suggestion that the museum produce in-home learning activity kits. The museum, thanks to a sponsorship, delivered 2,000 of those kits free to families at city food distribution sites.
“I found seed funding, encouraged our education team to run with the idea, and engaged our board to help with everything from delivering kits to helping us build a business plan for the new product,” she said.” I’ve encouraged the rest of the staff to adopt a similarly entrepreneurial approach.”
Another colleague’s suggestion led to a three-year, $400,000 gift from Tradepoint Atlantic, developers of the former Bethlehem Steel site, for an exhibition about the mill’s history with the help of its retirees, she said.
“We’ve forged an innovative approach that combines virtual and analog experiences and activates the outdoor spaces on our campus,” she said.
Kassof said innovation is an attitude. “My staff jokes that I say yes to every idea and proposal they float, no matter how wacky. That may be an exaggeration, but what is true is that my first instinct is to look for possibility in any suggestion.”
If ideas seem viable and align with the museum’s strategic vision, Kassof said, she gives her team the resources to succeed. “As a result, our staff feels free to think boldly and take risks,” she said.”
“We’ve forged an innovative approach that combines virtual and analog experiences and activates the outdoor spaces on our campus.”