The American Alliance of Museums has selected Doug Jones as this year’s recipient of its award for distinguished service to museums. The award is considered to be the “most prestigious in the museum profession” and recognizes individuals who have made significant and sustained contributions throughout a museum career lasting 20 years or more. Jones has served as director of the Florida Museum of Natural History since 1997, the longest tenure of any director at a major natural history museum in the U.S.

“Doug is a big thinker, particularly in regard to the unique societal role of museums. He understands that museums in our country are, above all, community institutions that help to engage and excite young minds and provide opportunities for lifelong learning for all, across many disciplines,” said Ford Bell, who served as president of the American Alliance of Museums from 2007-2015.

Man in a suit smiles while standing in front of a museum exhibit.Jones has spent the majority of his career building the Florida Museum of Natural History from a small but vigorous state museum to one of national prominence. After finishing his PhD at Princeton, he accepted a position with the University of Florida department of geosciences in 1979. There, he struck up a collaboration with paleontologist Bruce MacFadden, who encouraged him to apply for a curatorial position at the Florida Museum that opened in 1985.

“He became an associate curator of invertebrate paleontology,” MacFadden said. “He took a dormant collection of about 100,000 specimens and led to its development as one of the largest invertebrate paleontology collections in the United States, which now exceeds two million specimens.”

Jones’ time as director has been similarly fruitful. The number of faculty and staff has doubled in size under his leadership, as has the number of annual visitors. He oversaw the interior fabrication of the museum’s new exhibit hall in the late 1990s and successfully advocated for the establishment of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, which now houses one of the world’s largest moth and butterfly collections. He later garnered funds for the construction of a special collections building, built with state-of-the-art fire-suppression technology to safely store the museum’s cache of 4 million specimens preserved in ethyl or isopropyl alcohol.

He’s kept a watchful eye on opportunities and trends that could be used to strengthen the museum’s commitment to research and conservation. He was instrumental in securing an initial $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help digitize museum collections, making them more broadly available to researchers and the public. In 2022, he helped create the first position for curator of artificial intelligence, adding a second the following year.

“He has immense integrity,” MacFadden said. “He’s an excellent manager of things from the mundane to the strategic, and he’s an exceedingly effective fundraiser.”

Jones has helped raise more than $175 million in private funds for museum initiatives and has consistently encouraged innovation and continued learning among staff. “I’ve put a lot of effort into trying to develop visions for the future rather than being stuck with the status quo,” Jones said.

After 27 years of service as museum director, Jones said the most fulfilling aspect of his career has been the community of curious and enthusiastic scientists, teachers and students he helped foster.

“I feel like my life has been enriched by the people I’ve worked with much more than anything else.”

Source: Doug Jones,
Media contact: Jerald Pinson,, 352-294-0452

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