Michael P. Chaney named executive director of Frances Perkins Center

Newspaper Articles
Boothbay Register
About This Project


The Frances Perkins Center is pleased to announce the appointment of Michael P. Chaney as its executive director, effective April 1, 2014.

Chaney brings to the Frances Perkins Center many years of experience in nonprofit management and public history in Vermont and New Hampshire. A native of Alna, Chaney earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maine in 1979 and a master’s degree in history, with a certificate in public history and archival management from the University of Connecticut in 1985.

Early in his career, Chaney served as an archivist at the University of Vermont Library where his responsibilities included organizing the papers of the late Sen. George Aiken. He has also served as associate director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, chief operating officer of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and from 2001 to 2009, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Political Library, a nonprofit educational organization founded to preserve New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. In 2004, he helped merge the Political Library with the Pierce Brigade in operating and interpreting the Concord, N.H., home and career of President Franklin Pierce.

He is the author of several publications, including “White Pine on the Saco River: An Oral History of River Driving in Southern Maine,” and did he fieldwork photography in a publication dealing with Herb Ellis and Rangeley Boat Building, “The Rangeley and Its Region: The Famous Boat and Lakes of Western Maine.”  Since returning to Maine in 2010, Chaney has been the executive director of the Yarmouth Historical Society in Yarmouth. He lives in Alna with his wife, Laura Cooper Chaney.

Christopher Breiseth, chairman of the board of directors of the Frances Perkins Center, expressed the board’s pleasure in Chaney’s appointment.  “Michael’s interest and scholarship in American political history, and his direct management of special historic collections and properties, perfectly match the mission of the Frances Perkins Center,” Breiseth said.

In accepting the position, Chaney said, “I am honored to begin work with this nationally significant organization based at the homestead of Frances Perkins. From Newcastle, this center calls attention to the economic security programs established in the New Deal by Secretary Perkins and the Roosevelt Administration, demonstrating their enduring relevance in the 21st century.”

The mission of the Frances Perkins Center is to fulfill the legacy of Frances Perkins, principal architect of the New Deal, by continuing her work for social justice and economic security and preserving for future generations her nationally significant family homestead. Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt and first woman cabinet member in U.S. history, descended from the Perkins family, Newcastle residents since the mid-18th century, and considered the Perkins Homestead there her home.

The center has an office in Damariscotta with an exhibit on the life and career of Frances Perkins, who is known as “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” the title of a recent biography by Kirstin Downey, a member of the Frances Perkins Center Board. Perkins is perhaps most identified with Social Security, which she helped establish in 1935.