For the last 18 months, officials with the Florida Holocaust Museum scoured the nation for the best candidate to lead the St. Petersburg institution through a “complete reimagining” in the digital era.
Board Chair Michael Igel staunchly believes they found the right person.
Earlier this month, the Florida Holocaust Museum’s (FHM) board announced the appointment of Carl Goodman as their new President and CEO. He replaces interim director Erin Blankenship, and Igel said the lengthy search was to “absolutely ensure we found the right person.”
“And we did,” Igel added confidently. “So, that’s exciting.”
He stressed his excitement often during the interview, as Igel believes Goodman is the “perfect person at the perfect time” to lead the museum. Goodman served as the executive director for New York’s Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) since 2011 and oversaw a $67 million expansion and renovation.
Igel credited Goodman’s proficiency in handling “large and complex” collections, creating virtual educational curricula and utilizing technological advances to tell profound stories. That experience is critical as Igel said the FHM is undergoing similar initiatives.
Goodman will work closely with Blankenship, who returns to her role as deputy director. Together, they will manage the museum’s collection of over 20,000 artifacts, which continues to grow.
Igel said the FHM is in the early stages of “a complete reimagining” of the museum space and the offsite Collections, Preservations and Research Center. Officials are also bolstering its online educational offerings, and, he explained, the two initiatives overlap.
“As we do our physical plan, it’s going to include a lot of technological advancement and tremendous multimedia experiences,” Igel said.
Goodman, who began his MoMI career as an educator, tripled annual attendance during his time at the helm. He also secured millions in public and private funding, which, as Igel noted, is what the FHM relies upon to serve the community.
“He really checks all the boxes for us,” he added. “Not only where we’ve come as an organization, but where we are headed.”
Museum officials have a local legislative ally to help them achieve those goals. Rep. Linda Chaney relayed how she helped secure $5 million for the FHM last year.
At a Feb. 17 St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce event, Chaney called the facility “a real gem in the community” and told attendees she would request further appropriations during this legislative session. Chaney noted recent anti-Semitic instances in the area and said the money would bolster security, especially around the children’s education areas.
“Most exciting is that the Holocaust Museum is building the largest artifact collection in the world – right here in St. Pete,” Chaney said. “So, that’s pretty impressive.”
While not a requirement for the position – and not all finalists were Jewish – Igel noted that Goodman does have personal ties to the Holocaust Museum’s mission. Goodman has family members who escaped Nazi atrocities, and, like Igel, some of his relatives did not survive.
However, Igel stressed the lessons museum officials hope to impart on visitors resonate far beyond the Jewish community. A critical aspect of accomplishing that goal is adequately conveying those stories.
“One of the reasons Carl (Goodman) stuck out as much as he did, and I’m going to say this in quotes, was ‘he got it,’” Igel said. “It’s almost the unspoken part that you’re looking for when searching for the right person.”
He added that Goodman showed an explicit and implicit understanding of what FHM officials were looking for in their next leader, something the entire search committee noticed. Igel said that the museum’s leadership is passionate about its work, and also how they present it to the public.
He explained that the stories are so complex and catastrophic that individualizing them for visitors is critical for comprehension.
The museum’s board will work closely with Goodman to ensure a smooth transition, Igel said, and give him the time and space necessary to evaluate internal and external operations. He will help lead the museum into a new era starting March 13.
“We’re not resting, and neither will Carl (Goodman),” Igel said. “This is about taking things to the next level. That’s where we are as an institution.”
For more information on the Florida Holocaust Museum, visit the website here.