William Griswold says it was a difficult decision to leave the MIA, where he was expecting to have a long tenure. But he describes the chance to direct the Morgan Library as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, largely because of what the museum contains and how it matches up with his expertise.
"The Morgan Library & Museum is the foremost repository in this country of drawings, of illuminated manuscripts, of rare books, of literary historical and music manuscripts," he says.
It's material Griswold knows well, having studied and presented it throughout his career. The Morgan is also familiar. Griswold worked there between 1995 and 2001 as a curator and department head.
"And so, although this was agonizing in a sense because I hate to leave the Twin Cities, I felt that this was really the only decision for me," he says.
Even though he's been at the MIA less than two years, Griswold can point to some significant achievements. They include finishing the museum's recent expansion and re-installing the MIA's collection, and successfully completing a $100 million capital campaign.
"Although I would have liked to have had another 10 years here or more, in some ways the timing could be worse," he says.
That might explain why MIA Board Chairman Alfred Harrison seems surprisingly upbeat about the situation. Even though the Association of Art Museum Directors lists 20 American museums searching for new leaders, including the Walker Art Center, Harrison says the institute has a lot going for it right now.
"Nobody wants to go into a place that's somewhat broken and this place, if I can say so, is in first-rate shape," he says. "We've got strong finances and an excellent exhibition program coming up, and there's a very high level of confidence as to where we're going."
Griswold has promised to stay on at the MIA through the end of January 2008, which Harrison says will give it the time and flexibility to really comb through the list of applicants for director. And it's a list Harrison says the museum is somewhat familiar with, having gone through this process just two years ago.