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Brown named director of Historical Society

The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society unveiled the next chapter of its own history Wednesday by introducing its new executive director.

Melissa N. Brown, 36, will become chief steward of cultural history, the museum's 11th director. She has been on staff for 12 years and will take over the museum effective Jan. 1.

She succeeds Cynthia Conides, who will return to her full-time job with Buffalo State College after four years on loan to the Historical Society. Brown's responsibilities will include providing commentary, developing interpretive materials, managing exhibit designs and performing historic research, while furthering and maintaining the museum's collection.

"I never dreamed I could find a paying job at home, let alone in history. I even moved to Boston thinking my chances were better," said the mother of 7-year-old twin girls and a son who will turn 5 in August.

Her break came 12 years ago when Erie County funded a new position for the Pan Am Centennial. From there, she became a collections manager, storing artifacts, caring for the collections and cataloging antiques and relics.

Last September, she became director of research and interpretation at the museum on Nottingham Court and helped drive the highly successful "Buffalo Bills 50th Anniversary Season" exhibit.

The nonprofit museum holds more than 100,000 artifacts, 200,000 photographs and 20,000 books.

A 1992 graduate of Royalton-Hartland High School, Brown earned her bachelor's degree in history at Oswego State College and interned at the Oswego County Historical Society.

She earned a master's in historical administration from Eastern Illinois University.

A Gasport resident, Brown becomes one of the young leaders of the region's largest cultural organizations, said 51-year-old Donna M. Fernandes, president of the Buffalo Zoo.

She included on that list 44-year-old Mark D. Mortenson, executive director of the Buffalo Museum of Science, and Louis Grachos, 53, director of Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

"When I became director, I was the youngest leader and only woman," Fernandes said. "I'm happy to bring [Melissa] into the fold. She has a spark, passion and love for what she does."

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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