Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum dismisses director Brad Brownell
The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland has dismissed director Brad Brownell, which he attributed to creative differences over the handling and display of cars.
Western Reserve Historical Society CEO Kelly Falcone-Hall did not comment on why the institution parted ways with Brownell and wished him well in the future. A search for a new director will happen in the future, she said, and Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum External Relations Director Dan Davis will be taking the reins for upcoming exhibits, such as a celebration of Ferrari and manual transmissions as well as a BMW motorcycle display.
The Crawford grew from the private collection of industrialist Frederick Crawford, which he displayed first at his company and later to the public as a museum in 1943. The museum became part of the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1965. WRHS rotates its collection of more than 200 pieces through its facility in University Circle.
Brownell said he was surprised to be let go this week, which, in his opinion, comes down to different priorities with other management at WRHS.
“I have always been an experience-first kind of guy," he said. "I really prefer cars, motorcycles, that type of thing to be running, driving on the road, out where people can see them. And those efforts didn't really align with what they wanted to do. They prefer to have them as artifacts that are never to be touched or driven or seen.”
The Michigan native and Porsche expert joined the museum in 2022 after writing for specialty website Jalopnik. He was also one of the founders of RADwood, which promotes interest in the cars and culture of the ’80s and ’90s.
Brownell said having historic vehicles out on the road is key to growing the next generation of car enthusiasts and generating awareness of Crawford, and he had hoped to do this with the Crawford’s collection of pre-war automobiles.
“They've been in museums since my grandparents were my age,” he said, adding that he wanted to show people “how they operate, how they run, that they're still functional.”