Former Edsel Ford home executive will lead Gilmore museum

Chris Shires leaving museum in Holland, Michigan, for executive post at Gilmore | Gilmore museum photo
Chris Shires leaving one museum for another | Gilmore museum photo

The Gilmore Car Museum will start the second half of its first century with a new executive director as Chris Shires replaces Michael Spezia, who retires after 16 years at the helm.

“Chris has a strong background in museums and community relations,” Bill Parfet, chairman of the foundation that operates the Gilmore Car Museum and grandson of its founder, Donald Gilmore, said in announcing Shires’ hiring. “He will be stepping down as the executive director of the Holland Historical Trust and brings a wealth of museum operating experience to our organization.”

Spezia, who led the museum through the largest expansion in its 50-year history, retires on February 15, 2017. Shires starts work at the museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, on January 2.

Under Spezia’s leadership, the museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, added several buildings on its 90-acre campus, including partner museums focused on the Cadillac, Lincoln and Model A Ford brands.

With Spezia retiring, the museum’s board of trustees launched a nationwide search for an executive director, but found Shires nearby in Holland, Michigan.

He is a native of Maryland who has a degree in history from Marshall University and a master of arts in history and graduate certificate in museum studies from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

He was on the staff at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati from 2004 to 2007, when he became director of interpretation and programs at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. In 2013, he became executive director of the Holland Historical Trust and its museum in the historic Michigan community.

Gilmore has added several dealership-style buildings to its campus | Larry Edsall photo
Gilmore has added several dealership-style buildings to its campus | Larry Edsall photo

“I’m very confident in turning the Gilmore Car Museum over to Chris,” Spezia said in a news release. “His strong museum qualifications, experience, and desire to share history with the community will serve the future of the Museum well.”

Shires’ passion is history and for sharing the stories behind artifacts as much as the objects themselves.

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