News Register for our weekly news digest here.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s main building. Photo: the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s main building. Photo: the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Philadelphia Museum Director Apologizes to Staff over Handling of Harassment Complaints

Philadelphia Museum of Art director and CEO Timothy Rub has issued an apology to hundreds of the museum’s employees over the mishandling of harassment complaints made against Joshua Helmer, who previously worked as assistant director for interpretation at the institution, in an all-staff meeting held on Wednesday morning.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the “town hall” marked the first time Rub widely addressed the accusations against Helmer since they were first reported by the New York Times on January 10—in the days leading up to the event, he held individual meetings with each of the museum’s departments.

While Helmer departed the museum in 2018 to take up a directorship at the Erie Museum of Art, the complaints about his behavior with women followed him there. After the New York Times investigation brought the allegations to light, the Erie Museum forced Helmer to resign on January 12. Helmer has denied any wrongdoing and refused to discuss his relationships with the New York Times.

Rub’s apology comes in the wake of several statements issued by Pennsylvania politicians calling for the Philadelphia Museum of Art to strengthen its polices against harassment. Following the town hall, Rub said in a statement: “I know that actions speak louder than words. It is my firm commitment to do all that is necessary to address our issues head on, to ensure that this is a workplace in which people feel secure and fully supported.”

The institution’s board chair, Leslie Anne Miller, also committed to conducting a “cultural assessment” of the workplace with the help of an independent third party in an attempt to “understand what brought us here and most importantly what we need to change to be sure it never happens again.” To “ensure transparency and objectivity, I have agreed to lead this process,” reads an email she wrote to the staff.