“One of the biggest challenges is telling people about American history in a very crowded historical landscape,” says Carol B. Cadou, the first Charles F. Montgomery director and CEO of Winterthur. Cadou joined Winterthur in 2018 but knows the institution well as a Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation graduate herself.
Winterthur’s strategic goal is to remain as “nimble as possible” in order to attract audiences through new technology, new events and new ideas to make Winterthur a distinctive destination in a region steeped in American history, she says. “People are looking for authenticity—how did people really live?”
Fortunately, Henry Francis du Pont imposed no limitations on Winterthur after his death. “If he had thrown restriction on Winterthur of any particular type it really would have frozen us at a particular moment in time or a particular approach,” says Jeff Groff, director of interpretation and estate historian. The staff is free to respond creatively to what visitors, particularly the next generation, want to experience, he notes.
Charles Hummel, former Winterthur director, and Carol B. Cadou, Winterthur’s current Charles F. Montgomery director and CEO, in the Winterthur Library.//photo by Jim Graham
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Du Pont left Winterthur more than just objects; he led the creation of an entire framework to care for and appreciate his collection. Fifty years on, du Pont’s vision for Winterthur has expanded far beyond Delaware and the United States.
His legacy of conservation education and outreach ensures that while Winterthur’s journey over the next 50 years might be difficult to predict, the institution is likely to be making history as well as preserving it.