Longtime Rosenbach Director Derick Dreher Plans Departure in March 2021 [press release]

For immediate release

December 14, 2020 (Philadelphia, PA)—Dr. Derick Dreher, The John C. Haas Director of The Rosenbach, has announced his planned departure this spring after 22 years of service as director. Dreher joined The Rosenbach in 1997 as Curator and was promoted to Director in 1998. An art historian with degrees from Princeton and Yale, his expertise in early printing and graphic arts made him a strong choice for the directorship so soon after his arrival when then-Director Stephen K. Urice stepped down after a five-year tenure.

“For more than 20 years I have personally witnessed Derick’s remarkable contributions to The Rosenbach. His leadership and devotion to its collection and mission have made it one of the world’s leading centers of scholarship, programming, and engagement with some of the most important works ever collected in one place.” said Lenore H. Steiner, Vice Chair of The Rosenbach’s Board of Directors. “All who know him will miss the skill, energy, and care he has given to making The Rosenbach one of Philadelphia’s great institutions. His legacy is a strong and vibrant community which will continue to grow and flourish in the future.”

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to work with the Boards and staff of both the Free Library and The Rosenbach over the past twenty-plus years.” said Dreher. “Their high level of talent, engagement and support positions The Rosenbach well to thrive as it continues to grow and evolve.”

Dreher leaves The Rosenbach in excellent condition following a period of particularly robust growth thanks in no small part to a partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia. Overall, his tenure represents two decades of increased accessibility for the institution, which was founded in 1953 when brothers Abraham and Philip Rosenbach, world-renowned rare book and antiques dealers, left their extensive collections and their Delancey Place home to create a not-for-profit foundation.

While The Rosenbach has always maintained an outstanding collection and a strong research library, it has become more responsive and public-facing under Dreher’s leadership. Today, anyone in the world can engage, physically or virtually, with the autograph manuscript for James Joyce’s Ulysses, or Bram Stoker’s original notes for Dracula, as well as essential American manuscripts and rare books by early founders and thinkers including Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, and Abraham Lincoln; and the work of important writers across the centuries from  Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and Miguel de Cervantes to Charles Dickens, Marianne Moore, and T.S. Eliot, among countless others.

Under Dreher’s leadership, The Rosenbach has continued to collect, adding important works by such classic authors and artists as James Joyce, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Herman Melville, William Blake, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully, among others. The Rosenbach has also diversified its collection in the last several years with accessions of works by Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, to name a few. Dreher has also championed exhibitions and programs based on the work of lesser-known writers like Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Nakahama Manjirō, to cite two current examples. The Rosenbach now offers these and other experiences to a more contemporary and diverse population.

Dreher spearheaded a $9.6M capital campaign from 1998 to 2003 that saw the complete renovation of the townhouse adjacent to the Rosenbach brothers’ residence at 2010 Delancey, opening up new spaces for public programming, exhibitions, and storage, as well as full ADA compliance. The museum operated its first department of education under his leadership and added programs such as the series of “Behind the Bookcase” hands-on tours, which introduced visitors to rare books and manuscripts through a tactile experience, an unusual level of access to the general public.

Dreher spent much of his tenure strengthening The Rosenbach’s fiscal sustainability. He substantially increased the permanent endowment, growing it from approximately $100K in 1999 to over $9.4M this year. With a recent pledge of $1.75M from the Wyncote Foundation, the endowment is expected to exceed $11M by 2022, ensuring the continued vitality of the organization, its collection and the programs that engage visitors.

The Rosenbach’s future was boosted significantly in 2013.  At the initiative of Arthur Spector, then Chair of the Board of Directors, The Rosenbach became formally affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. The partnership was embraced and built out by Dreher, who simultaneously served as Vice President of Special Collections for the Free Library Foundation. At its essence, the Free Library gained the expertise of Rosenbach special collections staff like Dreher while The Rosenbach gained the broad reach and strong development and finance expertise of the Foundation. (The Rosenbach continues to maintain its own charitable registration and raise its own funds.) Bolstered by a $3M transition fund raised from community foundations and individuals, The Rosenbach reinvented its business and fundraising model, focusing on an even greater degree of public support and engagement.

As Dreher leaves The Rosenbach in good hands with a strong Board and staff, he plans to continue to serve in an advisory role.

“Derick’s knowledge and skill will be missed, of course,” said Peter Nalle, current Chairman of The Rosenbach’s Board of Directors. “But we are confident that the foundation of excellence he has established will remain strong, and we are comforted knowing that he will continue happily to assist and advise as the institution moves forward. We wish him well for the future – whatever that may hold in store.”

Kelsey Scouten Bates, The Rosenbach’s Associate Director since 2014, will serve as interim director beginning in January. She and Dreher will collaborate closely to ensure a seamless leadership transition for The Rosenbach.


The Rosenbach creates unique experiences for broad audiences through programs inspired by its world-class holdings of literature and history. The Rosenbach is located in Center City Philadelphia and while the pandemic has temporarily closed its doors, growing content is available at all times on Rosenbach.org. The Rosenbach is affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia.