Dean of Hill College Texas Heritage Museum has successful term as president of national organization

  Jessyca Brown
  Monday, October 19, 2020 8:24 AM
  Texas Heritage Museum

Hillsboro, TX

John Versluis, dean of the Hill College Texas Heritage Museum (THM) since 2005, recently completed a three-year term as president of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG), the nation’s leading educational and professional organization for academic museums, galleries, and collections.

AAMG board members are primarily from academic art museums and galleries, and Versluis’ election in June 2017 made him the first history museum director (non-art museum director) to serve as the organization’s president.

“John’s appointment announced that we are committed to the diversity of all academic museums and galleries,” said Jill Hartz, AAMG President Emerita and former executive director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. “Having a dean-level president also strengthened AAMG’s stature among our members and their supervisors.”

As AAMG president, Versluis was instrumental in solidifying a sustainable, standalone annual conference (established the year before under Hartz’s presidency) that was no longer held in conjunction with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) annual conference in May. Versluis said AAMG was becoming too big to continue to host its conference alongside AAM’s, and he and the board wanted to improve the conference experience for AAMG’s members.

“Many of our members are also faculty and typically have finals in May. We wanted to move our conference to June so more of our members could attend,” Versluis said. “We also wanted to increase the networking and session offerings, which would require a three- or four-day conference.”

Versluis also successfully—and unexpectedly—coordinated AAMG’s first-ever virtual conference after the pandemic hit this year. Within 90 days, Versluis and the AAMG conference committee turned the originally planned four-day conference at the University of Kansas into a 10-day virtual event on Zoom, which ended up hosting more than 700 attendees.

“Everyone was able to attend more sessions than they might have been able to at an in-person conference,” said Versluis. “And because it was online, entire museum staffs were able to attend.”

Versluis’ leadership also contributed to significant membership growth within the organization, increasing by 234 institutional memberships during his term. He worked with the board to assess and update membership rates and benefits and targeted new membership audiences.

As a result of these efforts, AAMG also experienced financial growth, and the all-volunteer board saw this as an opportunity to hire an administrative firm to manage AAMG’s operations. Versluis oversaw the hiring of the firm and was then able to re-evaluate roles and responsibilities within the organization.

“Hiring a management company freed up our board members’ time and allowed them to focus on efforts that would continue to grow and strengthen AAMG,” he said. “This also allowed me to redefine board and committee member roles so that each position had specific responsibilities that would directly support our strategic goals.”

Additionally, with Samuel H. Kress Foundation grant funds, Versluis aided in reprinting and distributing the AAMG Professional Practices for Academic Museums & Galleries manual to members and their supervisors. Versluis assisted Hartz and the board in the development of the manual the year before, which provides best practices and standards specific to academic museums and galleries and is crucial to training future generations of museum professionals.

“John has advanced us in so many ways,” said Hartz. “He led AAMG with a steady hand and seasoned advice, which in these unusual times, are much needed. He’s a good listener, asks great questions, and is a consensus-builder.”

Versluis is now serving as AAMG’s Immediate Past President and Mountain Plains Regional Co-Representative, a regional territory spanning 10 states and 200 academic museums, and will continue to assist the board in growing sponsorships and memberships, developing virtual workshops, and writing grants to support strategic goals.

“John’s service on AAMG’s board has brought notoriety, as well as awareness to Hill College and the Texas Heritage Museum and all it has to offer,” said Hill College President Dr. Pam Boehm. “We are very proud of his accomplishments, and he has represented the college and city of Hillsboro well.”

AAMG has 835 total members, including 486 institutional members, nationwide. It was founded in 1980 to promote and support academic museums and to help its constituent members achieve their educational missions. To learn more about AAMG, visit To learn more about THM, visit or like the museum Facebook page at