Search for Arizona Historical Society leader ends in Tucson

W. James Burns will begin his work as executive director of the Arizona Historical Society on Monday, April 9. (Submitted photo)

After a nationwide search, W. James Burns has been named the new executive director of the Arizona Historical Society.

Mr. Burns comes to the Arizona Historical Society from the University of Arizona, where he served as director of the Center for Creative Photography and the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Previously, he served as executive director of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg.

Mr. Burns’ appointment with the Arizona Historical Society is effective Monday, April 9.

“Dr. Burns’ background is versatile, having worked in history, anthropology and art museums in four states over a period of nearly 30 years, including organizations in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and Wickenburg,” Dr. Voie Chase Coy, the society’s board president, stated in a release.

“His academic background is grounded in Arizona history, and the relationships he has built over the years will aid the society in its fundraising efforts.”

Mr. Burns succeeds Dr. Anne Woosley, who has been named emeritus director.

He said he is most excited about the opportunity to build a national reputation for the society as a leader among 21st century historical organizations.

“I am very excited about the opportunities for partnerships with museums and cultural organizations across the state,” Mr. Burns said, adding that his new position fulfills a desire he has had to work with the society since he was a graduate student at Arizona State University in the 1990’s.

“I never wanted to leave Arizona, but my career took me elsewhere after graduate school. Since then, I have looked for a way to return to my home discipline and work with Arizona history. I’m passionate about the mission of the Arizona Historical Society. This opportunity is the culmination of 28 years of experience in the museum field.”

Previously, he worked for the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Louisiana State Museum, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Atlanta History Center. From 2007 to 2010, he served as curator of history and city historian for the Tempe History Museum.

The Arizona Historical Society is the oldest historical organization in Arizona, founded in 1864, and dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history.

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