My Biz: Keeping Brucemore in the heart of the community

“Brucemore is an ongoing celebration of this community’s heritage and culture,” says Brucemore executive director David Janssen. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
“Brucemore is an ongoing celebration of this community’s heritage and culture,” says Brucemore executive director David Janssen. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

On paper, David Janssen is a very well suited executive director for Brucemore.

He was a history major at Dartmouth, got his master’s in history and museum studies from Duquesne University, then received his MBA at the University of Iowa. He has since spent 20 years working in the field of historic house museums — including serving as vice president at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and the Detroit Historical Society.

In addition, he and Brucemore have some shared history. He served as assistant director of Brucemore from 1994 to 2001.

He returned home, if you will, to Brucemore at the beginning of this year to take over as the organization’s third executive director since the home opened as a museum property in 1981.

“Brucemore drew me back,” he said. “It’s always been a career aspiration to be a director of a historic house property, and this place that I love was an easy sell.”

Brucemore is a 19th century home — owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation — situated on 26 acres in the heart of Cedar Rapids. But the estate and organization are perhaps best known for a series of cultural events throughout the summer — theater programs, concerts and neighborhood walks, among other features.

Those events, Janssen said, are about ensuring that Brucemore is a hub of community activity.

“Brucemore is an ongoing celebration of this community’s heritage and culture,” he said.

He recalled this past summer when he stood on the First Avenue lawn and watched 12,000 visitors enjoy the annual Balloon Glow event during the Freedom Festival.

But just because the busy summer months have now passed, doesn’t mean Janssen and his team slow down. Brucemore is home to a variety of heritage-based programs, tours and exhibits year round.

Much like Brucemore’s programs, Janssen’s duties as executive director vary.


“On any given day I am editing an article for a journal, discussing strategic planning, studying financials and our business model, reaching out to our constituents, signing membership letters, budgeting or doing staff performance evaluations. Brucemore is a very complex place, historic sites and house are a very complex business,” he said.

“It’s a little like Disneyland. You’re not supposed to see how hard it is to create the experience. And really we just set the table so people can explore and create their own experience.”

Name: David Janssen

Title: Executive director

Company: Brucemore

Address: 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids

Phone: (319) 362-7375


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