Karen Bachmann, President of the Canadian Museums Association (CMA), announced today that Dr. Vanda Vitali — physicist, art historian, museum director, master planner, and a Canadian — will become the CMA’s next Executive Director beginning March 1st, 2019.
Dr. Vitali, fluent in both official Canadian languages, has directed or been involved at a senior level with museums of various sizes and interests nationally, as well as with heritage, contemporary art, and overall cultural concerns globally. She has also taught museum and related studies here in Canada, in the United States, and in France.
Ms. Bachmann stated, “her comprehensive museum work over four decades has included archaeological preservation, conservation and collection management, as well as repatriation, exhibition development, and policy development.” She added, “After a rigorous international executive search process led by Arts Consulting Group, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to name Dr. Vitali to lead the CMA and articulate the value of museums and Canadian heritage.”
Dr. Vitali was most recently the Chief Information Officer of the International Center for Innovation and Transfer of Technology in Jiaxing, China. Previously she has held roles as CEO of New Zealand’s Auckland Museum, Vice President for Public Programs at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, museology advisor to the president of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and director of the ROM’s Institute of Contemporary Culture. Honoured by the World Academy for the Future of Women, she has also been designated as Chevalier of Art and Culture of France. In addition, she has been recipient of the Jim Blackaby Ingenuity Award from the AAM.
Dr. Vitali’s dedication to museums began when, as a 30-year-old physicist she was co-directing a National Geographic Society study of the Punic era in what is now Tunisia. “One afternoon,” she recalls, “the director of the Carthage Museum took me up to the 5th floor of a non-descript building at the edge of the property. He opened the door and there, covered by accumulated dust, lay thousands of funerary objects excavated by Catholic missionaries in the late 1800s. Bronze mirrors, ceramic statuettes, and incense burners. Ostrich-egg masks, ivory beads, combs. Glaze perfume bottles and beads. They had been hidden there, to be preserved and protected from destructive political or environmental conditions. I was the first foreign visitor to see this pile of ancient artifacts, an actual material history of ancient Carthage. Each object had a story to tell. I was overwhelmed and mesmerized. From that point on, I became dedicated to researching, presenting, and protecting heritage – stories of our past identities that we carry into the future.”
After being invited to become the CMA’s next Executive Director, Dr. Vitali stated, “I am deeply inspired by the CMA Board’s confidence in me, and by its commitment to move forward into the next era of Canadian museums in our society.” She added “Museums are vital nodes in our network of local and global institutions that safeguard our memory and identity. In our interconnected world, museums have become ever more essential to the preservation of cultural diversity and appreciation. Museums are community anchors across our country, they are school partners and economic engines, they are for everyone, and they are trusted.”
Dr. Vitali has created strong regional, national, and international alliances and she has been a tireless advocate for the recognition of, and importance of, museums in our contemporary society. She has been a consultant and museum evaluator for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and has been a long-standing member of the CMA, of International Council of Museums (ICOM), and of the International Museum Institute.
CMA has nearly 2,000 members including non-profit museums, art galleries, science centres, aquaria, archives, sport halls-of-fame, artist-run centres, zoos and historic sites across Canada, and supports them with training and professional development programs, conferences, publications, networking opportunities, a body of knowledge, and a dedicated staff. Over the past 60 years, Canada’s museums have developed an international reputation for excellent programming, dedicated public service, and high standards of professionalism. The CMA is governed by an elected Board of directors and maintains a full-service Secretariat in Ottawa.