James Mulholland Vaughan

27 May, 194323 April, 2020

Our beloved Jim Vaughan passed away peacefully after a brief but hard-fought battle with cancer. Jim devoted his entire career to historic preservation and museums, retiring a few years ago as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. He served previously as vice president for historic sites for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and led The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee; the San Diego Historical Society in California; the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware; and Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Jim was active with numerous museum, preservation and history communities, serving on the board for the American Association for State and Local History, as a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), as a grant reviewer for the National Endowment for Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He organized two influential national conferences around rethinking historic houses and sites. He was named to AAM’s Centennial Honor Roll as one of the 100 American museum leaders who worked to innovate, improve and expand how museums in the United States serve the public.

Jim held a master’s degree in higher education administration and a bachelor’s degree in history from The Ohio State University. He completed four additional years of graduate study in history at the University of New Hampshire.

He is survived by his wife Janet Vaughan, his sisters Gail Vandall and Margaret Maurer, his brother Dick’s widow Patti Vaughan, many nieces and nephews, and a vast network of friends and colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Historic Sites Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation at or to the Endowment Fund at the American Association for State and Local History at When gatherings are possible in the future, we’ll come together to celebrate Jim’s amazing spirit.

Add a


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Show Your


James Mulholland Vaughan

have a memory or condolence to add?

Bill Tramposch

14 May 2020

I liked Jim from the moment we met almost 40 years ago at the Seminar for Historical Administration in Williamsburg. To watch his and Janet’s kindred spirits ignite over the last two score years has been both hugely enjoyable and inspiring. Jim was always thinking of others and was a master at bringing together colleagues whose thinking and energy would make the interpretation of historic places shine ever more brilliantly. I miss him everyday and send condolences and love to Janet. “To affect the quality of the day is the highest of arts”, says Henry David Thoreau. Jim and Jane, thanks for that!

Bill Tramposch
Mendocino, CA

Terry Davis

2 May 2020

Jim meant a lot of things to a lot of people. When I first became CEO of AASLH Jim was my guide through the history of AASLH and the complexities of the field of state and local history. He began work at The Hermitage in Nashville just before my tenure at AASLH. His support and guidance were invaluable. Little did I know we would soon become much more than colleagues. I could recount endless stories and reasons why Jim was treasured as a leader and mentor in his field; I would rather remember the stories and reasons he was a treasured friend. Jim could always make me laugh, and we laughed a lot. He could calm me down when I needed to just take a minute and remember to breathe. And he was always there when I needed him, whether it was work or personal. One of the things I loved most about Jim was the way he loved and adored Janet. He lit up when she entered the room or when he talked about her--which was a lot! Jim knew the partnership he had with Janet was special. He not only loved her, he admired her as a person and was always so proud of her. He told me on several occasions he didn't know how he could love someone so much when she made him eat so much broccoli! Jim was a special breed of person and those of us who called him friend were better because he was in our lives. Thank you Jim!

Nina Zannieri

1 May 2020


I am so sorry to hear about Jim. He will be deeply missed by the history museum community. He was such a warm and knowledge force in our field. My thoughts are with you and the rest of his family.


Sunnee O'Rork

30 April 2020

Dear Janet,
I'm so sorry for your loss. My heartaches for you and your family. I first met Jim through his dear friend John Durel many years ago when interviewing for a position at a National Trust site, and then again through the Seminar for Historical Administration. Most recently I'd see him at national conferences and through the MAP program as a fellow AAM Peer Reviewer. As a bedrock person in the museum and history field, I knew I could always count on him for sage advice, understanding and insightful conversations. I'm honored to have know such an extraordinary person whose sense of humor and insight always lifted me up. Jim was who Maya Angelou spoke of when she said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Rest In Peace Jim, you will always be remembered fondly. Sending you virtual hugs and angels to hold you tight during this difficult time.
Sunnee D. O'Rork, ED@i.d.e.a. Museum

Bill Lawrence

30 April 2020

On behalf of the San Diego Historical Society (San Diego History Center), our Board of Trustees, staff, volunteers and members we are saddened at the passing of Jim. His leadership sustained and advanced our mission to collect, preserve and promote the history of the San Diego region. He is part of our history, and we are better for having received his grace and wisdom.
Bill Lawrence
President & CEO
San Diego History Center

Marvin Schenck

30 April 2020

I'm so sorry to hear of Jim's passing. During my fifteen years with the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, CA, I got to know Jim through our involvement with the Historic Artist's Homes and Studios program of the National Trust, a program that would not have existed without his inspirational leadership and foresight. He made a real difference in the recognition and support of that important niche in the history of American Art. He was a brilliant and giving sole whose company I always totally enjoyed.

Patricia Miller

30 April 2020

I was so sorry to learn of the passing of Jim. He was a person who I deeply respected, and he contributed so much to the field of history and preservation. My thoughts are with his family.

Daniel Carey

30 April 2020

Plain and simple, Jim was one good egg.

Bev Tyler

29 April 2020

I remember Jim as a complete gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor which enlivened both AASLH sessions and social occasions. Jim was a person who I always looked forward to seeing again year after year at the annual meetings.

Kyle Ciani

29 April 2020

Dear Janet,
Please know that you are in my heart as you walk this journey. Jim was such a positive mentor to me when I worked at the San Diego Historical Society. I learned so much about being a compassionate leader who brings out the best in their team. His dedication for historic preservation will live on in us.
Kyle Ciani


Learn more about the Vaughan name