Memphis/ Arts & Culture
AI Assisted Icon
Published on May 31, 2024
Stax Museum's Jeff Kollath Steps Up as Leader of Sultana Disaster Museum in ArkansasSource: Google Street View

Jeff Kollath, known for his nine-year tenure as the executive director of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, is saying goodbye to the Memphis institution. He's set to take the reins of the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion, Arkansas, come July. Kollath's move, announced this week, has the seasoned museum professional ready to dig into the history of America's deadliest maritime disaster, leaving behind a legacy of music history preservation.

According to Local Memphis, Kollath masterminded a much-needed renovation of the Stax Museum in 2023 and was instrumental in establishing free field trips for Tennessee students. Despite the transition to the Sultana Disaster Museum, which is primed for a significant upgrade, he isn't severing ties with Stax completely. Kollath will continue to shape the museum’s future as chair of a new advisory committee and will offer his expertise on special collections and programming.

"Working at the Stax Museum has been full of ‘pinch me’ moments. Being able to celebrate the Stax legacy and share the music and stories of the people who made it has been the greatest joy in my professional life. I will always be grateful to Soulsville for giving me this opportunity," Kollah told The Commercial Appeal. His efforts were also vital in assisting filmmakers with the research for a recent HBO docuseries on Stax Records.

The Soulsville Foundation, under the auspices of CEO Pat Mitchell Worley, is gearing up to conduct a national search for Kollath’s successor. Worley acknowledged Kollath’s deep love for rich, narrative-driven storytelling. In a statement obtained by Local Memphis, Worley expressed confidence that Kollath's drive for creating immersive educational experiences would bring new life to the Sultana Disaster Museum.

With visions of a museum filled with cutting-edge exhibits and a narrative that spans generations, a man filled with exuberance, Kollath shared his enthusiasm for his new role with the Sultana Historical Preservation Society. “As a museum professional, one of my greatest joys has been uncovering, interpreting and telling the stories of everyday people and their extraordinary lives,” Kollath explained in a news release featured on Civil War Picket. The Sultana Disaster, a tragic steamboat explosion near the end of the Civil War, is a tale that Kollath believes deserves a prominent place in America's historical tapestry.

The Sultana Disaster Museum's upcoming venue, a repurposed high school gymnasium with new additions, promises to not only expand its physical footprint but to enhance the way visitors engage with history. Kollath’s extensive background in museum development is set to steer the museum into its next chapter, ensuring that the Sultana Disaster remains a relevant and poignant story for current and future generations. For more details on the museum's expansion and Kollath's plans, you can follow ongoing updates on the museum's official channels.