In Memoriam: Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko (1972–2023)

Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko passed away on January 21, 2023, after a fierce battle with cancer. She is survived by her beloved husband Larry and son Jacob whom she loved with a joyfulness felt by all.

Working in museums for twenty-five years, Cinnamon will be best remembered because she used her power to change lives, inspire movements, and challenge the status quo. A museum director since 2001, she was a frequent presenter at national museum meetings and was often asked to comment on museum issues. As the president and CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, she served as one of the motivational forces behind the museum’s decolonization initiative, working with the Wabanaki communities in Maine to develop policies and protocols to ensure collaboration and cooperation. She made the Abbe a leading resource and model for the museum field for ideas, solutions, and strategies for understanding and developing decolonizing museum practice. Her conversations about the topic moved forward a robust national dialog across the history and museum communities.

In September 2019, Cinnamon joined the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Illinois as its new director. During her tenure, working with the Governor’s office and the Department of Natural Resources, the staff and the Illinois State Museum Board grew to represent the State’s diversity. She was leading the way to elevate all Illinoisans’ stories, decolonize the museum’s practices, center Indigenous voices, and create a pathway for the future. She supported the work of the Illinois State Museum Society to enhance the work of the institution’s mission.

Her list of professional accomplishments is long. In 2016, Cinnamon gave her first TEDx talk, “We Must Decolonize Our Museums” She’s been an active and engaged board member of many organizations, including the American Association for State and Local History, American Alliance of Museums, Association of Midwest Museums, Maine Humanities Council, and the Smithsonian Affiliates Advisory Council, and she was recently appointed by President Biden to the Route 66 Commission.

Ever-committed to serving her local community, Cinnamon served on the boards of the Island Housing Trust and the Hub of Bar Harbor (a Main Street-affiliate organization), and as the President of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Cinnamon was also a prolific author, beginning with The Art of Healing: The Wishard Art Collection (2004). She was co-editor of the Small Museum Toolkit (2012), a result of her tireless efforts on behalf of America’s small museums. Museum Administration 2.0 (2016) was a much- needed, timely update of an important book that will guide museum professionals for years to come. And in 2021, she co-edited perhaps her most important work: The Inclusive Museum Leader.

In 2008, as the Director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, she led the organization to the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s National Medal for Museum Service. In 2019 she was awarded the Neal Allen, Jr. award by the Maine Historical Society for her outstanding contributions to the field of Maine history.

Cinnamon was courageous and she encouraged others’ courage as well. She took pride in helping the next generation find their voices in the museum field, while fostering a sense of belonging. She believed the museum profession has room for everyone to be seen and heard.

She left a tremendous mark on everything she touched and everyone she knew. She nurtured lifelong friendships, was an avid reader and traveler and loved music and concerts. Cinnamon was a remarkable woman, a visionary leader, and a dear friend to many. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “I shall not look upon her like again.”

Donations in Cinnamon’s memory may be made to the Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko Memorial Fund at or by mail to AASLH 2021 21st Ave South Ste. 320, Nashville, TN 37212 (Please write: “Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko Memorial Fund” in the check memo or accompanying note.)

Posted: January 26, 2023
Tagged: In Memoriam