Soldati Named New Discover Portsmouth Director

November 2015

The Portsmouth Historical Society board of trustees announced that Kathleen Soldati has accepted the position of Executive Director, effective immediately. Soldati, who has been serving as Interim Executive Director since mid-June, will take the reins at the John Paul Jones House Museum and Discover Portsmouth.

Kathleen Soldati, Discover Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Kathleen Soldati has been named as Executive Director of the Portsmouth Historical Society and Discover Portsmouth Center. (Photo courtesy of David J. Murray of

A marketing expert, author, singer, and teacher, Soldati has worked with corporations, nonprofits, ad agencies, public TV/radio, and political campaigns. She has produced national and international events for Nelson Mandela and Jane Goodall (with Nancy Vawter), obtained coverage in the New York Times, The Today Show and The David Letterman Show.

Society President Edward Mallon says, as soon as Soldati took over as interim director last summer, the executive board knew she was the ideal candidate for the job. In just five months, she has raised public awareness for the museum and the welcome center, according to Mallon, reaching out to Portsmouth residents and city visitors. The result was the highest number of visitors in the organization’s history.

“Kathleen’s energy, interests, and administrative skills merged perfectly with her marketing and tourism expertise,” Mallon says. “She immediately got the vision of Discover Portsmouth and started making things happen.”

Soldati got her first glimpse of the Port City as a child when she visited an uncle who was stationed at Pease Air Force Base. She married Lincoln Soldati, a Portsmouth native, and moved to New Hampshire in 1975. She recalls the days of Cafe Petronella and the Blue Strawbery restaurants, when Portsmouth was gaining national attention as a cultural and heritage destination.

“I’ve been in love with the city ever since,” Soldati says. “My goal is to spread the word about this amazing new institution known as Discover Portsmouth. Our mission is to tell Portsmouth stories and promote local history and culture. Thanks to a super dedicated staff, volunteers, and board members, we’re building a long-term vision for a city that will soon celebrate its 400th anniversary.”

Soldati first moved to the seacoast while serving as executive director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. She has worked for NH Public Television, JSA Architects, and built a dynamic marketing program for The Music Hall. Since the mid-70s, Soldati has also managed her own public relations firm, serving clients throughout the region and handling tourism for the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. She recently returned to broadcasting as the co-host of a music show on WUNH radio in Durham.

Soldati replaces the organization’s first Executive Director, Maryellen Burke, who helped launch Discover Portsmouth as an exciting gateway to the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Burke transformed a small, under-funded, historic house museum into a hugely popular community resource.
Under Burke’s watch, says former society President Richard Candee, Discover Portsmouth completed $1.4 million in improvements to two historic 1810-era brick buildings. After 100 years as the public library, the conjoined buildings needed new roofs and carpets, plus modern HVAC and lighting systems that halved the yearly energy budget. Burke also received an LCHIP grant for major external improvements to the John Paul Jones House. During her tenure the organization brought the Portsmouth Advocates, the Portsmouth Marine Society Press, and the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail under its nonprofit umbrella. The Star Island Corporation and Seacoast African American Cultural Center are also located on site.

“All of this was accomplished by Maryellen’s considerable charm, her love of fundraising, and her deep knowledge of the area and its people,” says Candee.

The Portsmouth Historical Society, founded in 1920, is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit devoted to introducing, interpreting and stimulating the study of Portsmouth history. PHS operates the 1758 John Paul Jones House Museum at 43 Middle Street. Discover Portsmouth Center is a cultural gateway that houses a welcome center for residents and visitors interested in the city’s history and culture. It offers changing exhibits, a wide-ranging calendar of programs, rental space, and a museum shop located in an historic 1810-era building at 10 Middle Street. For more information call (603) 436-8433.