Mike Hudson has stepped down from his post as Avoca Museum’s executive director, and taken a role as marketing director and historian of the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg. He started in his new role September 7. Avoca currently has an interim director.
Hudson, who has a master’s degree in education and taught multiple subjects in several local schools before working at Avoca, was able to improve many aspects of the museum during his 8-year tenure there. Joan Woodson, a member of Avoca’s board of directors for the last 20 years and president of the board for the last eight or nine, remembers serving as part of Avoca’s interview committee when Hudson applied for the museum’s executive director position.
“He was very impressive during the interview process, he was young and energetic and detailed, and you could tell very dedicated to history in general,” Woodson said. “And he knew a lot about the historical aspects of Avoca.”
Hudson started in 2013. He was living in Hurt at the time, and had applied for the job when he saw a posting for it in the Altavista Journal. He had always wanted to work in historic preservation. When asked for his thoughts on his time at Avoca, Hudson said he is proud of the museum’s progress in the last eight years, and grateful for support from donors, patrons, members, the board of directors, grant makers and volunteers who made it possible.
“I was able to move the museum forward with their help to places I didn’t really dream of back in 2013,” he said.
Hudson said some of the projects at Avoca he is most proud of include leading a capital campaign to build restrooms, which made the grounds much more event-friendly, improving educational programming, and making numerous structural repairs and improvements, many of which he was able to obtain grants for.
Hudson improved Avoca’s exhibits, oversaw the introduction of a visitor orientation video to the museum, represented Avoca in a number of speaking engagements, wrote historical articles for the Altavista Journal, and was able to bring media attention to the museum at the state and national levels.
Avoca was featured in national travel blogs, and USA Today. Hudson even traveled to Ireland to give a lecture on the Lynch family in the area of the family’s ancestral homeplace at the Galway City Museum in 2017.
Hudson said he was proud the museum was able to balance its budget at the end of 2020, despite the pandemic, and even continue improving its programming and facilities during the year.
He also said he is proud of the volunteers he has recruited and built relationships with.
Descendants of Avoca’s original residents twice held gatherings during his tenure as director, and one just prior.
Hudson said conversations he’s had with descendants of both the enslaved people who lived at Avoca and descendants of the property owners have been very uplifting and satisfying.
“Some of them even went so far as to tell me they consider me a part of family,” Hudson said. “I thought that was the best compliment I could possibly get.”
Curtis Crews, a member of Avoca’s board of directors for roughly a decade, said Hudson has passion for history to match his impressive knowledge.
“Mike has been a great asset to the Avoca Museum,” Crews said. “He has increased the perspective of the Avoca Historical Society.”
Crews said Hudson has expanded the museum’s geographic reach in his tenure, and its reach across cultural and gender lines, into African American, Native American and female perspectives. Crews said Hudson also expanded the museum’s treatment of various historical periods.
Woodson, for her part, called Avoca a “jewel” and said those who work there tend to grow to love the property. She mentioned other ways Hudson stood out, noting the detail with which he could answer visitors’ questions, and the skill with which he wrote scripts for Avoca’s lantern tours each fall. She said he touched all of the museum’s business, from weddings and other events to marketing.
When asked what the museum should look for in a new director, Hudson responded:
“I think that in a new director they need to look for someone who has local ties, who has a vested interest in the community, someone who’s going to love the site more than their own home,” Hudson said. “That’s certainly how I viewed my job.”