Stephen Watson has worked at the National WWII Museum in a variety of positions since 2002, and in 2017 he took on the role of President and CEO.
This museum in New Orleans tells the story of the American experience of WWII, exploring the reasons behind it, how it was fought, and what it means today. Speaking to blooloop in 2020 about its mission, he said:
“Our mission is to tell the story of WWII through the lens of the American experience. For instance, why did we get into the war in the first place? How did we go about winning it? And what does that mean to us today? You could make a really compelling case that WWII is one of, if not the most, important event in human history. Over 65 million people lost their lives. It was a transformative time in the world. It was a fight for freedom and democracy, and it’s a really big and important story.”
Over the years, the National WWII Museum has weathered several crises, most notably Hurricane Katrina which devasted the city of New Orleans in 2005. Following the hurricane, the museum was closed for several months and was forced to diversify its revenue sources.
“We could not just be solely dependent on people walking through our doors,” said Watson. “We had to think differently about an economic model and financial resilience. As a result, we began to think about what we could do beyond visitation revenue, retail and food & beverage.”
The crisis also meant that Watson and his team increased their focus on online and distance learning, which set it in good stead for the next crisis: COVID-19 and the subsequent museum closures.
Watson initially studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Aberdeen, before picking up a BA in Marketing and then an MBA at Nicholls State University.