New Academy President

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University today announced a new president and CEO. Scott Cooper, PhD, an experienced museum professional and historic preservation scholar, will take the helm of Philadelphia’s natural history museum in the second week of December.

Cooper, 48, is vice president of collections, knowledge and engagement at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada. Museumgoers voted the institution Canada’s best museum in 2014 and 2015. A dynamic leader, Cooper brings more than 20 years of experience in protecting, promoting, and transforming cultural sites and institutions in several countries.

Before joining the Royal BC Museum three years ago, he was director of museums at the Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar. There he oversaw a $65 million capital project and created the first museum dedicated to the subject of slavery in the Islamic world. Before that, he worked in London as CEO of the Fulham Palace Trust, where he devised plans for the restoration and reuse of Fulham Palace, one of England’s most important heritage sites.

Scott Cooper, vice president of collections, knowledge, and engagement at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada, is the Academy’s new president and CEO. Photo by Royal BC Museum

“In Scott Cooper I believe we have found a hands-on museum scholar, as well-versed in preservation as he is in management,” said Drexel President John Fry. Cooper will report to Fry.

Cooper replaces George W. Gephart, Jr., who retired in the summer after seven transformative years that began with the Academy’s affiliation with Drexel University.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Cooper to the Academy at this momentous time of growth and opportunity,” said Peter Austen, chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees. “We look forward to Scott’s experienced leadership as we move to engage our audiences on all fronts more than ever.”

Cooper believes museum exhibitions should offer visitors “a deeply immersive and truly exceptional experience.” Curators should look to their collections for inspiration, making it their “first point of call.” Collections, he says, “reveal remarkable narratives that not only help people understand the past, but, crucially, help them navigate the future.”

The future is very much on Cooper’s mind as he takes over the Academy, an institution with more than 18 million plant and animal specimens, a storied history of research and discovery dating to 1812, and a new scientific collaboration with Drexel’s Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, which unites the Academy’s renowned researchers with Drexel faculty.

Cooper has an ambitious view of building on the Academy’s momentum as a world-class museum that inspires people to value their connection to nature and as an academic resource for generations to come.

“The Academy will be a foremost destination for leisure as much as for learning; a place for conversation as much as conservation; a museum that provides transformative experiences that move people to care for the wonders of nature; and a civic institution that stands out to Philadelphians and the region as a resource for public engagement on biodiversity and environmental science,” Cooper said.

Trained in construction management at the University of Manchester, Cooper holds a degree in architectural conservation and a doctorate in architecture from Edinburgh College of Art. He is also a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute, where he continues as faculty.

Cooper previously held positions as a heritage consultant, landscape and building conservator, and construction manager in the British private and nonprofit sectors. The father of three young children, he enjoys hiking, fly-fishing and golf.


To read articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Business Journal, click the links.

Post by Carolyn Belardo

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