Hello and Farewell: New Leadership at the Berks History Center

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New Executive Director of the Berks History Center, Benjamin Neely

The Berks History Center (BHC) is pleased to welcome its new Executive Director, Benjamin Neely, from the Adams County Historical Society. Ben was selected for the position upon the retirement of the BHC’s previous Executive Director, Sime Bertolet.

“After a rigorous search and screening process, the BHC Board of Directors is confident in our selection for the next Executive Director,” says Board President, Jim Michalak. “Benjamin Neely is a qualified museum professional who will bring many years of experience and a fresh perspective to the Berks History Center.”

Benjamin Neely has been a museum professional since 2005.  With a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the State University of New York at Oswego, Ben completed his graduate work at Shippensburg University where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Applied History.  During his time as a graduate student, he began working for the Adams County Historical Society as the Collections Manager and was the lead historian during the development of the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum.  Ben was the Executive Director of the Adams County Historical Society for the past 7 years.  He supported the Adams County community through his service on numerous committees and boards.  Ben has supported the museum community at the state level through his service as a board member for PA Museums, an organization that advocates for government support for Pennsylvania’s museums and organizes conferences to support continuing education for museum professionals.

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Director Emeritus, Sime Bertolet Retired in July 2019

After 13 years of service to the BHC, previous Executive Director, Sime Bertolet, retired in July 2019. Bertolet left the organization with a comprehensive strategic plan that will support the new director’s efforts to lead the BHC.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that we have accomplished over the past 13 years. We couldn’t have done it without the help of our dedicated staff, volunteers, Board of Directors, our members, and of course, the generous businesses and organizations who have supported the mission of the BHC,” says Bertolet. “I feel truly blessed to be a part and to be a leader of this organization that will soon celebrate its 150th Anniversary. More importantly, I am honored to have served as the Executive Director of the organization that preserves and shares our Berks history. My decision to retire came after much reflection and thoughtful consideration. In the end, I determined that it is time for the next generation to assume their leadership role. I have no doubt that Mr. Neely will do a great, and better job, than I have done.”

The BHC Board of Directors thanks Sime Bertolet for his years of service to the organization and for all of his accomplishments. Upon his retirement, the BHC Board will confer the title of Executive Director Emeritus on Bertolet. Bertolet’s accomplishments cited by the Board include:

  • The acquisition and renovation of the BHC’s Research Library, the Henry Janssen Library building located at 160 Spring Street;
  • the 75th and 80th Anniversary Celebrations of John Phillip Sousa’s last act as a conductor here in Reading, PA;
  • exhibits such as Beer & Pretzels Berks County Style, Berks County Long rifle and Gun makers, I Have Dream, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and the Magical History Tour, a cultural and musical happening;
  • the 2010 American Alliance of Museums Institutional Museum Assessment Plan;
  • two revisions of the BHC Bylaws and the implementation of board term limits;
  • the 2013 rebranding initiative from The Historical Society of Berks County to the Berks History Center;
  • the 2014 Strategic Plan and the 2019 Strategic Plan facilitated by Shultz & Williams;
  • the 2017-2018 Collections Management Initiative and its recognition by the PA Museums’ Institutional Achievement Award

 

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