African American Museum under new leadship

Patricia Wilson Aden is the new president and CEO of the African-American Museum in Philadelphia. -PHOTO SUBMITTED BY THE ROZ GROUP

Patricia Wilson Aden takes over as president, CEO

A new leader has been tapped to move the African American Museum in Philadelphia into its next phase.

Patricia Wilson Aden has been appointed as the museum’s new president and CEO. She had served as interim president since the December 2012 departure of previous president and CEO Romona Riscoe Benson.

“I’m thrilled to take on the president’s role in this point of AAMP’s history,” said Aden.

“AAMP has a wonderful history of strong leadership, both at the board and staff level. I am especially pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Romona Riscoe Benson and to follow in her footsteps. Romona is a powerful act to follow. She certainly made her mark here at the museum and in Philadelphia at-large and it is my hope to extend the work that she did.”

Aden took over the leadership of the museum while a national search for Benson’s replacement was initiated. Claire Lomax, chair of AAMP’s board of directors, noted that Aden quickly emerged as the best person to lead the museum through its next phase.

“AAMP is a pivotal point in its 37 year history and in Patty, we have a person who understands our mission, our operation, our potential and our vision for the future,” said Lomax.

Aden brings nearly three decades of experience in nonprofit management to her new role. She joined AAMP in 2010 as the museum’s vice president of operations, a role that provided considerable exposure to the challenges and opportunities of the cultural asset. Prior to joining AAMP, Aden served as executive director of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving rhythm and blues as a unique American musical genre. Before working with the foundation, Aden served as vice president for arts and culture for Universal Companies, a nonprofit founded by R&B producer Kenny Gamble.

She began her career in the field of historic preservation. As director of the Mid-Atlantic office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Aden coordinated capacity-building for statewide preservation organizations in the mid-Atlantic, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. She also held positions as the president of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and the executive director of the District of Columbia’s Preservation League.

“We’re intent on not only building on our legacy but working towards our future as well.

“We are reimagining the African American Museum because we are at the point in the museum’s history where we realize that there are real opportunities out there that we are commitment to pursing,” Aden stated.

AAMP’s current exhibition, “Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection” which features gowns once worn by Motown recording artists The Supremes, was Aden’s brainchild. The exhibition has drawn national attention, raised awareness of AAMP, attracted new audiences in unprecedented numbers and earned financial support from PNC Bank and other corporate supporters.

“With the Come See About Me exhibit, we certainly set the bar high. Our audience has been broadened and diversified and we want to make sure that as we move forward we have the kind of exhibits that bring those same people back to us again and again. We really want to ensure that our exhibits are compelling, substantive [and] provocative – the kind of experience that when you walk away from the exhibit you want to talk about it further.”

The AAMP is in the process of putting together an exhibition on the Tiberino family that will open in September. The exhibition will feature the work of the late, noted African-American painter, Ellen Powell Tiberino and her family as well as artists that they have been associated with.

Aden noted that the bold initiatives are being undertaken to ensure the sustainability of the museum.

“We want to make sure that all of Philadelphia embraces the institution, embraces the museum as their own museum and really celebrates it as the asset that it is,” she said.

“We understand that in order to sustain the museum that we are going to have to invest in the museum. We are hoping that our members, our peer organizations and our stakeholders all collaborate with us to make that happen.”

Lomax sees a bright future for AAMP with Aden at the helm, ready to take on both creative and operational leadership.

“We are now poised to advance the museum’s mission by engaging in comprehensive, bold initiatives that will capitalize on our recent successes and remind people of AAMP’s contribution to the vibrancy of Philadelphia’s cultural landscape,” said Lomax.

“We hope to attract supporters of arts and culture in the city to invest in AAMP’s exciting plans for remaining relevant and accessible to the broader community.”

Aden’s vision for the museum also includes focused efforts to mentor the next generation of talent in the field of African-American history and stewardship. The museum hopes to continue its current Fellowship in Museum Practice program funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Science. The program provides students pursing graduate level degrees in African-American history and related fields hands-on experience by working in the museum for one year.

Museum officials said the AAMP is well positioned to be the region’s focal point of African-American culture and to be an invaluable hospitality partner in curating the Philadelphia experience.

“We are thrilled with the appointment of Patricia Wilson Aden as president of the African American Museum of Philadelphia,” said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

“She has been a great partner and with her extensive cultural background and history with the museum, she will be great in this role – both for AAMP and for Philadelphia.”

“Patricia’s vision for strategic programming offerings will truly support of presentations to meetings planners who are seeking the solid cultural and historical aspects of this city as the backdrop to their convention experience,” said Jack Ferguson, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Aden holds a bachelor of arts in history from Spelman College and a master of arts in historic preservation planning from Cornell University. She also received an honorary doctorate of arts from Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.

Founded in 1976, the AAMP is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African-Americans.


Contact Staff Writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or

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