AUGUSTA — The former director of Rhode Island Historical Society has been named the new director of the Maine State Museum.

Bernard Fishman, 62, replaces Joseph R. Phillips, who retired after 20 years overseeing Maine’s largest museum.

Fishman, who was appointed by the Maine State Museum Commission, was described as a veteran museum director with 28 years of experience. He is set to begin Aug. 20.

“He was selected after a six-month national search and brings important experience in strategic planning, museum operations, and capital campaigns,” Charles J. Micoleau, chairman of the Maine State Museum Commission, said in a statement Monday.

Museum officials declined to specify his salary. According to public data available on its budget, the museum has about a $1.6 million budget through the state’s general fund and other grants. Of the total, about $1.4 million pays for museum employees and other office expenses.

Fishman said he wants to guide the museum “to an even more brilliant future of showing to ourselves and the world why Maine is such an important and distinctive place.”

Fishman, who is married and has a grown son, said he has always enjoyed visiting Maine and looks forward to living here.

“My connections here are significant,” he said in a statement. “For 11 years, I was a camper or counselor at two Maine summer camps, one in West Baldwin and another in Oakland. Under the name of M.H. Fishman Co., my family also owned small department stores in Calais and Biddeford. These associations were very formative in my life, and left me with a profound sense of always belonging to Maine in some elemental way.

“It’s exciting for me to be returning here, in a job that is so much about forging similar links between people’s pasts and Maine today.”

The publicly financed Maine State Museum is the only one in the state that focuses on Maine’s history, pre-history and natural science, said Assistant Director Sheila McDonald.

“You can see the best of Maine under one roof,” she said.

The museum attracts about 50,000 people a year, including thousands of school children, to its four floors of exhibits devoted to Maine’s environment, history and culture.

In an interview, Fishman praised Phillips’ leadership and said he has the experience to pick off where his predecessor left off. Fishman said his experience includes developing new exhibits and programs and raising money to support both.

“I have experience where I’ve done these things,” Fishman said. “With the experience and energy and interests I have, I will be a good fit for the Maine State Museum.”

Fishman grew up in New York City and received a bachelor’s degree in American history from Columbia University and a master’s with honors in ancient history and archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.

He was initially an Egyptologist and worked for three years recording and deciphering ancient texts in Luxor, Egypt, according to the release. He then became director of a small art museum in Tulsa, Okla.; founding director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore, where he worked for 13 years; director for four years at the Lehigh County Historical Society in Allentown, Pa.; and executive director at Rhode Island Historical Society, where he worked for nine years.

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