A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Barbara Franco has worked in museums and historical organizations throughout her career. She began her museum career as Curator of Decorative Arts at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York, and then worked as curator, coordinator of exhibits, and assistant director at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts from its opening in 1975. From 1990 to April 1995 she served as Assistant Director for Museums at the Minnesota Historical Society, with responsibility for the educational programs, exhibitions and museum collections in a new History Center that opened to the public in the fall of 1992. From 1995 to 2003 she served as President and CEO of The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., where she played an active role in promoting community history and heritage tourism. She headed up the project to create the City Museum of Washington, D.C., which opened in May 2003 at the renovated Carnegie Library building at Mount Vernon Square. From 2004 through 2011 she served as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the official history agency of Pennsylvania responsible for the preservation, interpretation and promotion of Pennsylvania’s past. She is currently Executive Director of the Seminary Ridge Museum on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Gettysburg — one of the lasting legacies of the 150th anniversary
She is recognized as a national leader in history museums and is a past chairman of the American Association for State and Local History. Since 1997, she has been a faculty member of the Seminar for Historical Administration, teaching a course on “Managing Change” in historical museums and institutions. She has had extensive experience in exhibition development, published catalogues, articles, and given presentations on a number of topics that include historical interpretation, museum practice and historical research. She has been actively involved in heritage tourism development and in state and national planning for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.