Lewis Museum names new executive director, Wanda Draper

Wanda Q. Draper will join the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture as the insitution's new executive director next month.

Draper is currently WBAL-TV 11's director of programming and public affairs, and she will take on her new role Sept. 28. She replaces A. "Skipp" Sanders, who retired in January.


As one of the museum's original board members, Draper co-chaired the museum's opening in 2005, and subsequently served as co-chair of the board's marketing and public relations committee for 10 years, according to a news release.

"I was part of the founding board of the museum, and of all of the boards and things that I've participated in my career, I spent more time with the museum than anything else in my life," Draper said. "For me it was so transformational to be part of an idea and have that idea become a reality in the form of the museum."


She has meeting notes on the museum's creation that date back to 2000, she said, and she was active on the board until 2010.

Following Sanders' retirement, the Lewis Museum conducted a national search for the next director that drew a multitude of applicants, museum board chair Beverly Cooper said. The board narrowed the search to eight candidates. When it came down to the final two, Draper stood out for her involvement with the museum from its inception, as well as her varied experience, Cooper said.

Draper previously worked as director of community affairs and visitor services at the National Aquarium, reporter and editor for The Baltimore Sun and television panelist on the PBS program "Maryland NewsRap."

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"She was one of the originals and she was there when they were thinking about the museum and what we should do with the museum," Cooper said.

As she steps into the museum's top position, there are three main challenges Cooper said Draper will have to combat: the museum's financial stability, visibility and small staff.

The Lewis Museum has struggled to remain in the black and consistently failed to meet a state requirement that it generate $2 million, half its annual budget, in privately raised revenue. Draper said she never could have imagined a recession would hit just a few years after the museum's opening, and she sees it as both a challenge and an opportunity to keep the museum financially viable.

She said the museum has a strong foundation, upon which she hopes to build its donor base, strengthen its branding and take advantage of its technological assets. She also wants to revive an African American history curriculum the museum created and push it out to schools statewide.

"The original mission of that museum was to have the world know about Maryland's African American history, and I think that that is still the vision today because so many people don't know," Draper said. "And I think it's even more important now because so many things have happened."


Draper will remain with WBAL-TV until she comes on board with the museum in late September.

"This is not a job, this is a labor of love," she said, "because I love that museum."