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It makes sense that, in his role as president and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution, Dr. R. Scott Stephenson turns to George Washington as a model for leadership.

“Listen to the room but trust your gut,” Stephenson said. “That is the way that George Washington conducted the affairs of his council of officers, and there is nothing in my experience as a leader so far that has shaken my faith in this model.”

The Museum of the American Revolution shares compelling stories about the people and events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality and self-government. Visitors have access to a trove of galleries, theater experiences and interactive exhibits, giving them a deeper understanding of the American Revolution.

The National Center for the American Revolution was founded in 2000 to build a museum and tell the story of the American Revolution and its significance. Stephenson joined the organization in 2007 as its founding director of collections and interpretation (later vice president for collections, exhibitions and programming). He was charged with stewardship of the center’s artifacts and development of the exhibitions and visitor experience for the projected facility near Valley Forge. The project stalled in 2008–09 due in part to local zoning challenges and the financial crisis.

Stephenson played a leadership role in relocating the project from Valley Forge to Old City Philadelphia in 2010. To raise national awareness for the organization, he forged a partnership with Colonial Williamsburg to produce a hand-sewn replica of the museum’s most significant artifact — Gen. George Washington’s Revolutionary War tent — as a public demonstration

project that was also livestreamed online. The project got the attention of the White House and international media, boosting the fledgling museum. Stephenson built and led the team that designed and developed the museum’s core exhibition, films and educational programs. It opened to the public in April 2017. In November 2018, Stephenson took the helm as president and CEO. Since then, the museum has expanded its national reach and impact. Looking ahead to the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026, the Museum of the American Revolution is positioned to play a leadership role in the Philadelphia region’s cultural landscape.

“It may just be my training and instincts as a historian, but I spend a lot of time looking back to try to understand how decisions and happy accidents led to today’s success,” Stephenson said. “I am also obsessed with unpacking those efforts and initiatives that were not successful. So self-study is important to me. Also resisting the inertia that can come with success — remaining open, entrepreneurial and willing to take risks.”


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