Gilmore Car Museum Appoints New Executive Director

Posted on December 15th, 2016
Chris Shires pictured in front of the Holland Historical Trust Museum. Photo courtesy of the Holland Sentinel, 2013.

Chris Shires pictured in front of the Holland Historical Trust Museum. Photo courtesy of the Holland Sentinel, 2013.

The Gilmore Car Museum, near Kalamazoo, MI, is announcing today the appointment of Chris Shires to the position of Executive Director effective January 2, 2017.  He replaces long-time Director Michael Spezia who will retire on February 15, 2017.

“Chris (Shires) has a strong background in museums and community relations” said Bill Parfet, Chairman of the foundation that operates the Gilmore Car Museum and grandson of its founder Donald Gilmore. “He will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the Holland (MI) Historical Trust and brings a wealth of museum operating experience to our organization”

Retiring Director Michael Spezia joined the Gilmore Car Museum in 2001 and led the Museum through the largest expansion in the organization’s fifty year history.  This involved the addition of several historic buildings and on-site partner museums including Cadillac, Lincoln, and Model A Ford. Today the Gilmore Car Museum is recognized as North America’s largest auto museum, due to the size and breadth of its collection, exhibit space, the 90-acre historic campus, and its seven individual partner museums.

Parfet pointed out that the Gilmore Car Museum has seen “phenomenal growth over the past 15 years, with 2016—our 50th anniversary—marking the museum’s most successful year to date”, and acknowledges the significant role Michael has played in our success.

Earlier in 2016 when Spezia announced his pending retirement, the Gilmore Car Museum Board of Trustees undertook a nationwide search to find his replacement. Shires is a native of Maryland and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and a Master of Arts in History and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Missouri—St. Louis.

Shires joined the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH a year before it opened to the public in 2004.  He went on to serve six years there, first as Interpretive Services Manager and later as Director of Exhibits, Education, and Programs. In 2009 he became Director of Interpretation and Programs for the historic Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, MI.  He was appointed to the post of Executive Director of the Holland Historic Trust three years ago.

“I’m very confident in turning the Gilmore Car Museum over to Chris,” stated outgoing Director Michael Spezia. “His strong museum qualifications, experience, and desire to share history with the community will serve the future of the Museum well.”  Michael also wished to thank all of the supporters of the Museum during his stewardship.

“The Holland Museum is a wonderful museum and community resource,” Shires stated recently when he announced his acceptance of his new position with the Gilmore Car Museum. “I am most proud of the plan we put together and our ability to continue to deliver on our mission despite limited resources.” 

Shires expressed that he’s had a passion for history for as long as he could remember and grew to love the stories behind artifacts as much as the objects themselves. He is genuinely thrilled by the chance to continue to pursue something that he enjoys so immensely—“sharing the stories from history and becoming a part of the Gilmore Car Museum team.”

The Gilmore Car Museum—North America Largest Auto Museum—celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. Here you’ll find over 400 extraordinary vehicles ranging from horseless carriages to classic Duesenbergs, the elusive Tucker, the Model T Ford and Muscle Cars of the 1960s and ’70s. The 90-acre Historic Campus is home to several structures from bygone days, including four vintage car dealerships, a 1930s gas station and an authentic 1940s diner that serves lunch.

It’s the perfect place for reliving memories or making new ones. The Museum is located midway between and Chicago and Detroit in the heart of west Michigan, just a short drive from Kalamazoo. To learn more about the Gilmore Car Museum visit. www.GilmoreCarMuseum.org or call the Museum at 269-671-5089.

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