NEMA Excellence Awards 2016

People are what make our museums great, and NEMA’s members are some of the most talented and dedicated people in the field.

NEMA is proud to honor our colleagues’ extraordinary effort and commitment to the New England museum community. Let’s recognize their achievements.

Congratulations to the winners of NEMA’s Excellence Awards Competition!


NEMA is pleased to announce the winners of the third annual Excellence Awards competition. We had the largest pool of nominees ever, which made for a highly competitive year. This year's awardees will receive recognition at the Annual Meeting at this year's conference. Thanks to all who submitted nominations and to our judges, and congratulations to this year's Excellence Award winners!

Joseph Cox, President, EcoTarium

His nominator says: "From the moment he became President in October 2012, Joe Cox has been undeterred in his conviction that collaboration is essential to the longevity and success of the EcoTarium, and that the EcoTarium has an important role to play in the larger success of the Central Massachusetts region. With that in mind, he has worked tirelessly to interweave the nearly 200 year old science and nature museum and its resources into the fabric of the community, and to develop and expand on national-level partnerships that bring a new level of cultural and educational experience to the museum’s rising number of visitors."

Joe Cox has served as the President of the EcoTarium Museum of Science & Nature since October 2012.  Founded in 1825, the mission of the EcoTarium is, “To inspire a passion for science and nature”. Prior to moving to Massachusetts he worked in the museum field for 16 years in Florida, having previously served as the founding Executive Director of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from St. Mary’s University in London with a focus on environmental law and paleoquaternary biogeography and completed his Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester.  Joe was the recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship in Museum Practice based at the National Zoo and National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. He completed the Getty Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He is past Chair of the Florida Association of Museums (FAM) Foundation - the state wide organization dedicated to professional development for museum field. He is dedicated to improving the quality of place in Worcester, developing strong community partnerships and is committed to inspiring a passion for science and nature in future generations of visitors to the EcoTarium. 


David Dempsey, Associate Director of Museum Services, Smith College Museum of Art

DempsyHis nominator says: Like many conservators and other collections care specialists, David Dempsey is an unsung hero of the museum field, someone who makes vital contributions that outsiders know little about. In David’s case, he has served the Smith College Museum of Art in positions of increasing responsibility for 40 years. He began in 1976 as the Preparator and today holds the position of Associate Director of Museum Services. In this position he oversees exhibit preparation, conservation, security, guest services and facility management. Throughout his career, David has been committed to high standards of collections care, to sharing his knowledge with others in the field, and to educating the next generation."

David Dempsey is the Associate Director for Museum Services at the Smith College Museum of Art where he started his museum career as a Preparator in 1974. David is responsible for overseeing conservation, exhibition production, security, guest services and facility management at the museum. After study at the University of Massachusetts (B.A.) and the University of Kansas (M.A.), David interned with Arthur Beale and Marjorie Cohn at the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard University and with Emil Schnorr at the Springfield Museums. At Smith College he is a member of the History of Science and Technology program and co-teaches the Chemistry of Art Objects and Historic Methods and Materials classes. He is also instructs in the Museum Concentration.  David is particularly interested in the history of paper as well as the use analytical instruments and techniques for the examination of works of art. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the New England Conservation Association and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. He has been co-Chair of the Conservation PAG at NEMA for more than twenty-five years having been drafted by fellow conservator David Lee Colglazier.


Margaret Middleton, Independent Exhibit Designer and Museum Activist

MiddletonHer nominator says: "Margaret is committed to social justice and inclusion, and consistently fosters discussion through many channels, including co-teaching workshops, leading online conversations, including #MuseumWorkersSpeak, that address social justice, inclusion, diversity, and advocate for museum and visitors' rights. She is a key voice in conversations on a national and international scale that will be revolutionary for museums around the world."

Margaret Middleton is an independent exhibit designer in Providence Rhode Island, working at the intersection of design and social justice. Margaret is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design's industrial design program, a chair at the Museum Education Roundtable board, and a co-chair for NEMA's Professional Affinity Group for Exhibits. Margaret is also a queer activist, an advocate for family-inclusive museum practice, and the creator of the Family Inclusive Language chart.


Marjory O’Toole, Managing Director, Little Compton Historical Society

Marjory O’TooleHer nominator says: "Marjory was project director, researcher, author, fundraiser and curator for If Jane Should Want to Be Sold, but she did not work alone. She recruited and rallied a highly professional team of volunteers including university historians, local historians, museum professionals, graphic artists, a fine artist, editors, proofreaders and descendants of Little Compton’s enslaved people to complete the project on time, within our modest budget, and in a way that has made all of us proud of the end results. Members of the public have called both the exhibit and the book “eye-opening” and have stated that the project has transformed the way they think about our community and its historic people of color."

Marjory O'Toole is the full-time Managing Director of the Little Compton Historical Society and a part time Master's Candidate at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University. Her interest in local slavery and indenture was sparked by one of her courses at Brown and led to a major year-round project at the Historical Society that restored the voices of 250 forgotten people of color to the history of the Little Compton, Rhode Island.   


Loren Spears, Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum

Loren Spears Her nominators say: "Lorén is an exceptionally gifted leader who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty. Lorén exemplifies the term, "Lead by example."  She has the ability to pull together diverse individuals and groups from in and outside of the museum field. Not only does her tireless efforts benefit Tomaquag, they have resulted in eclectic partnerships and collaborations between and among groups that would have never envisioned themselves working together. Lorén has a servant's heart as evidenced by the passion she has for her community and heritage. This passion is incredibly contagious.  She is a true champion of education which ensures a welcoming and safe environment for engaging  the public and indigenous community."

Lorén M. Spears, Narragansett, Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, has been an educator for 25 years and more recently as an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island where she also received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education. Mrs. Spears holds a Master’s in Education from the University of New England. She shares her cultural knowledge and traditional arts learned through her family with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives published in a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond, and The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View. She works tirelessly to empower Native youth and to educate the public on Native history, culture, the environment and the arts. She was appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo to serve on the Board of the RI State Council on the Arts and serves on various other boards including The Pell Center’s Story in the Public Square. Under her leadership, Tomaquag Museum has received the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal. She has also received a variety of awards including the Extraordinary Woman Award, International Day 2010, the Urban League, Woman of Substance Award, 2006 and the Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities in October by RI Council on the Humanities. She resides in Charlestown, RI with her husband Robin and 3 children, all of whom are traditional artists.