Robin Waites announces retirement from Historic Columbia in June 2024
Thursday, October 19th 2023
I am reaching out to you—members, supporters, and friends—to inform you of my plans to retire from my role as executive director of Historic Columbia in June 2024.
In August 2004 when the board of trustees invited me to move into the position of Executive Director, I was incredibly green. I had eight years of museum experience—two at HC and six at the SC State Museum—but none at the executive level. I’d never managed human resources, audits, organizational budgets, or boards, but the leadership at the time had confidence in my capacity to learn and grow. More importantly, they had a vision for Historic Columbia that they were committed to executing.
It has been my honor and privilege over the last 20 years to help turn that vision into reality.
When I took the reins at HC, we had six full-time staff, a $300,000 budget, responsibility for 6 historic buildings that we did our best to manage, and 14 acres of grounds that were unkempt at best. Today we have 21 full- and 20 part-time staff, a budget of $2.5 million, and our buildings and grounds stand among the best examples of historic site preservation and interpretation in the region.
Over twenty years I have witnessed the transformation of Historic Columbia at every level. We now boast:
- Award-winning, cutting edge, and inclusive interpretation at our museums, on our grounds, and throughout our website.
- Rehabilitated, period-appropriate gardens at each of the properties that allow us to expand educational opportunities, generate increased revenue, and serve as beautiful and accessible greenspace in the city center.
- Extremely well-managed collections that are now accessible online.
- Dynamic, inclusive partnerships that prioritize voices and stories of those previously not given a platform.
- An impactful, multipronged preservation advocacy program that has led to retention of some of the Midlands’ most important and diverse historic assets.
- Dedicated, impactful financial support from the City of Columbia and Richland County.
- Finally, and most importantly, a professional staff that is committed to making all of the above not only possible, but extraordinary.
Serving as the executive director of Historic Columbia has been an honor and a privilege. At times I grew with the organization and at times it grew with me. We have a symbiotic relationship—me and this place. And while leaving is hard, I feel an immense sense of pride in all that we have accomplished together.
Over the next year, I will hand over the keys to an organization that is a force to reckon with and one that represents ALL people who lived, worked, and passed through our community. Until then, I am committed to making my last year here HC’s best year to date. I know that I can count on you to help make that vision a reality.