Quinn, who will assume his new duties in April, called the appointment "an amazing opportunity to contribute to the public understanding of the American Revolution."
At Montpelier, where he had been president and chief executive since 1999, Quinn worked to build board and budget, expand educational programming, and establish an expansive identity for the estate of Madison, the nation's fourth president, popularly known as "the Father of the Constitution."
At the Museum of the American Revolution, Quinn will take the reins of ideas and plans, but as yet no building. The museum was originally sited in Valley Forge, but after a series of disputes and altered plans delayed construction, backers worked out a deal with the National Park Service, swapping the Valley Forge land for a site at Third and Chestnut Streets.
Architect Robert A.M. Stern has signed on to design a new building at the Chestnut Street site. The project is expected to cost $150 million; Gov. Corbett has authorized up to $30 million in state capital redevelopment funding.
To complete the real estate swap, the park service has paid the center $3.2 million and has committed an additional $2.5 million to $3 million to refurbish the Independence National Historical Park building that the revolution center is currently occupying.
That building, the old park visitor center, will be partly demolished, although the park service will retain a portion that houses a costly parkwide cooling system. The new Stern-designed facility is scheduled to open in 2015, if all goes according to plan.
Quinn, whose salary will be $275,000, praised the location - "It couldn't be better," he said - and added that he was eager "to be part of the creation of a very important national institution."
He said no site tells the complete story of the American Revolution: "It's amazing to me that this hasn't been done before."
Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @SPSalisbury on Twitter.