By MATT HOPFHerald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- A familiar face will lead the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.
The museum announced Monday that Henry Sweets is taking over duties of executive director.
Sweets has worked at the museum for 35 years. He previously served as the director of the museum and became the full-time curator after the Mark Twain Home Foundation hired an executive director to handle administrative and fund-raising responsibilities in 2004.
"When I came to the museum, I was the only full-time employee the museum had," he said. "As we grew through the years, my title went from curator to director."
As curator, Sweets was able to focus on the collections of the museum.
"Our collections are all computerized, so we can search for items and do research on them," he said. "It gave me the opportunity to start the Mark Twain teachers workshops."
He is taking over for Cindy Lovell, who announced in January she was leaving to become the executive director of the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Conn.
Sweets said he will begin work on addressing declining attendance that he attributes to high gas prices and high levels of the Mississippi River in 2010.
"We've had two years in a row that were not good years for us financially, and we need to be taking a look at how to move forward in the future and plan better for diminished returns from our visitors," he said.
He said work will continue on renovating the Becky Thatcher House and raising funds for the permanent exhibits that will go there. The restoration of the Grant's Drug Store will be the museum's next large project.
David Mobley, president of the Mark Twain Foundation Board of Directors, said Sweets' experience will continue to benefit the museum.
"While we were sad to see Cindy move on to Hartford, we just feel very fortunate to have Henry there who is willing to step in and take over," Mobley said.
Sweets has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a master's degree in American history and museum studies. He also served on the Hannibal School Board from 1992 to 2010.