Jill MacKenzie

Executive Director, Hagley Museum and Library

Photo courtesy of Jill MacKenzie

For nearly 40 years, Jill MacKenzie has dedicated herself to the mission of Hagley Museum and Library. A New Jersey native, MacKenzie wasn’t aware of the Wilmington gem until she graduated from the University of Delaware. Assuming the role as its public relations coordinator, MacKenzie quickly learned that “Hagley played such a pivotal role” in Delaware’s history.

Now the executive director, she continues to navigate Hagley’s future. “One of our challenges is, how can you be a history museum and stay true to your mission but still have relevance in today’s world?” Doing so takes ingenuity, something Hagley certainly isn’t lacking, thanks to the museum’s collection of 5,000-plus 19th-century U.S. patent models, second in size only to the Smithsonian.

Following the success of its “Spirit of Invention” exhibit, which traveled to China two years ago, Hagley will showcase “Nation of Inventors” in 2021, where visitors can “learn about the history of invention in this country,” says MacKenzie. “The true story of invention in the United States is by the people whose names you don’t know,” she adds, noting it will include household and unknown names. “The patent system is actually colorblind and gender blind,” and the exhibit will feature women and people of color. Accessibility is also at the forefront for MacKenzie. During the pandemic, the museum launched “Hagley from Home” online.

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