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Montana Historical Society names longtime employee as next director

Posted at 9:27 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 10:32:58-04

HELENA — The Montana Historical Society has announced its next director, who will begin leading the organization later this year.

Molly Kruckenberg has spent 21 years with the Historical Society, including as the long-time head of its Research Center. She will be the society’s first female director in its 155-year history.

“I am absolutely excited to set that milestone,” said Kruckenberg. “Women in Montana history have been great players in all of our social history, political history, everything like that – from Jeannette Rankin to Judy Martz, to all of the really great women who’ve had leadership roles in the state.”

MHS is going through a major change, as leaders prepare to start work on the Montana Heritage Center project – a long-awaited expansion of the society’s current facility. Kruckenberg says it’s an exciting time for the organization.

“My goal will be to ensure that the transition between directors goes smoothly, and then also to just make sure that the programs that we already have in place that are really excellent, that reach out across the state continue – that we can build those programs and make our materials more accessible to the people of Montana,” she said.

Kruckenberg says she’s especially proud to leader the Historical Society after having made a career there. She believes she will be the first director hired from within MHS during her time working there.

“I’m really dedicated to the work that we do, and passionate about our history, Montana’s history,” she said. “So I’m really pleased to have my work culminated as being director.”

Kruckenberg will take over for Bruce Whittenberg, who is retiring after nine years as director. Whittenberg told MTN she has played a big role in the Heritage Center project and other initiatives he’s worked on. He said, when he decided to step away from the position, he saw her as a strong choice for a successor.

“It’s been exciting to participate with her in that, see the success, and just watch her grow,” said Whittenberg. “She’s eminently qualified.”

Whittenberg told MTN he felt this was the right time to step away and spend more time with family and on other pursuits. He also said, when the Montana Legislature finally approved funding for the Heritage Center project after years of lobbying, it removed a major piece of unfinished business for him.

Kruckenberg will take over as director on Oct. 1. Whittenberg will remain with the Historical Society in a limited role through the end of the year, to help with the transition.