Friday, June 9, 2023

UPDATE: Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation has a new executive director

Christy Coleman WYDaily/Courtesy of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
Christy Coleman WYDaily/Courtesy of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

UPDATE Dec. 17, 2019: The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation on Tuesday announced it has appointed a new executive director.

“Christy Coleman will lead the state agency and its iconic U.S. historical sites in developing the next generation of living history and educational programs, nationally accredited museum operations, and top-quality visitor experiences, according to a news release from the Foundation.

Officials said said with a record of leadership roles at the American Civil War Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Coleman brings a broad perspective and highly relevant experience to the leadership of JYF.

“Christy Coleman’s professional accomplishments and perspective will be invaluable in writing the next chapter of JYF’s long and storied history, and we’re all looking forward to having her experience and creativity guiding the next generation of programming,” said Speaker M. Kirkland (Kirk) Cox, chairman of the JYF Board of Trustees. “As a dynamic, proven leader in the museum field, she will help ensure that our programs and exhibits align with the educational needs of today’s young people and are relevant and appealing to the visiting public.”

Coleman will succeed Philip G. Emerson, who is retiring on Dec. 31, after leading the foundation for 28 years.

“The leadership of this place has been committed to doing things the right way and it has received many well-deserved accolades. My goal is to work in partnership with JYF’s board, staff, donors, volunteers and diverse stakeholders to build on this strong foundation and to continue to tell powerfully relevant history that is inclusive and compelling,” Coleman said in a news release.

Coleman, of Williamsburg, holds a master’s degree in museum studies from Hampton University and has been a member of numerous organizations, including the African American Association of Museums, the American Alliance of Museums and the Association for State and Local History where she was also a council member, according to the Foundation. She has been featured prominently in the media recently, including in Forbes and Smithsonian magazines and on NBC. TIME last year named her one of the 31 people changing the South.


The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation is still on the hunt for a new executive director. 

Philip G. Emerson has led the foundation for more than three decades but will be retiring at the end of December, according to a news release from the Foundation. 

In November 2018, the Board of Trustees for the Foundation announced it had started a search committee to recruit a new executive director but since then, there have been no updates on the search, said Tracy Perkins, spokeswoman for the foundation.

Perkins said there will be a meeting of the Executive Search Committee Tuesday in Richmond but that was all the information she had. 

The Board of Trustees in November issued a special resolution to Emerson which granted him the title “Executive Director Emeritus” and named the Central Support Complex after him.

Emerson is the Foundation’s third executive director in over six decades and during his time, he oversaw a number of changes in the organization.

Those include Foundation’s $160 million investment in the organization’s museums, which are large factors in local growth in the economy and tourism industry. Additionally, he led the year-round management and operation of the Foundation’s two living history museums. 

As such he helped transform the foundation’s minor collection of artifacts into a collection of more than 1,500 significant, non-archaeological items and more than 210,000 archaeological items.

Most recently, the Foundation planned and executed a number of events for the 2019 Commemoration and was the state agency leading Virginia’s involvement in America’s 400th Anniversary in 2007.

Emerson has welcomed world leaders to the Historic Triangle, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald J. Trump as well as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Emerson started with the Foundation long before he became executive director, however. In 1986, he started as the director of public affairs and marketing before taking his current position in 1991 after a year as interim executive director and following a nationwide search. 

The foundation has been looking for a successor since announcing Emerson’s retirement and plans to have a new executive director by the end of 2019, according to the news release.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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