Kelsey Scouten Bates Named Director of The Rosenbach

The Board of Directors of The Rosenbach is pleased to announce the appointment of Kelsey Scouten Bates as the John C. Haas Director of The Rosenbach.

Kelsey Bates has served as The Rosenbach’s Interim Executive Director since March 2021 when longtime Director Derick Dreher stepped down after a 24-year tenure. Bates has been Associate Director and Director of Development since February 2014 and was hired following the formation of its formal partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. Her charge was to implement a robust fundraising program founded on the idea that creating more opportunities for people to access the collection would allow The Rosenbach to thrive.

Bates brings 25 years of experience in special collections, public history, and development to lead one of Philadelphia’s most important cultural organizations, which encompasses nearly 400,000 rare books, manuscripts, and arts objects with strengths in literary and U.S. history. A native of Maryland, she has held positions in arts and humanities organizations across the country including The Baltimore Museum of Art; The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas; and the Birmingham, Alabama, Public Library Department of Archives and Manuscripts.

“Kelsey’s extensive experience in development and all the varied aspects of library and museum management are of enormous value to The Rosenbach.” Says Peter Nalle, Chair of The Rosenbach’s Board of Directors. “In the time she has been with us she has proven to be a trusted partner for all stakeholders, and we have no doubt that her skills and abilities will benefit The Rosenbach tremendously in the coming years.”

It was in the Birmingham Public Library archives where Bates began writing about the people and stories in its collection that often went unnoticed. There, she published and presented on topics like African-American culinary history, the lesser known stories of the Civil Rights movement, and the often overlooked lives of women and girls at the turn of the last century.

Bates knows that The Rosenbach’s collection, while celebrated for its well-known masterpieces like James Joyce’s Ulysses and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, contains a deep well of inspiration just below the surface. “There are so many worthy, yet untold, stories here” says Bates. “These are stories about people’s lives, their circumstances, their failures and successes, and they live alongside the great works of Joyce, Cervantes, and Austen.”

This recognition has led The Rosenbach to offer courses, tours, and performances that serve a growing, and more diverse, audience. Bates is committed to continuing to expand and vary the public offerings that welcome people to interact with the whole collection. Bates says “I am delighted to work alongside a staff and board that recognize it is worth taking the time to dig deeper, broaden our reach, and engage in new conversations and perspectives. That is, after all, what good writing and close reading is all about.”

Bates has a B.A. in American History from the University of Maryland, College Park, and an M.S. in Writing from Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. She writes about and has published in the field of U.S. history.