After 55 Years, County Doing Away With Its Museum Advisory Commission

Prior to Melissa Russo’s assumption of the directorship of the San Bernardino County Museum, the board of supervisors has moved to dissolve the San Bernardino County Museum Advisory Commission, which has been in existence for 55 years.
In April 2014, Robert McKernan, who had been the museum’s director for a dozen years, resigned, expressing concern that the effort to complete a multimillion-dollar exhibit hall was yet languishing, seven years after it was begun.
Leonard X. Hernandez replaced McKernan as interim museum director. Last month, the county announced that it had hired Melissa Russo, the former executive director of the Western Museums Association and the director of institutional advancement at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, as the new county museum director as of October 19. Russo, who also uses the name Melissa Rosengard, is an aggressive fundraiser who is married to John Russo, the city manager of Riverside since May.
This week, Hernandez recommended that the board of supervisors “dissolve the Museum advisory commission,” stating “In April 2014, Museum Management Consultants was retained by the county to do an assessment of the San Bernardino County Museum. The Museum includes the main site in Redlands, the Victor Valley site, and seven historical sites found throughout the county. Through a process of interviews and comparative analysis, Museum Management Consultants created a report and benchmark study that assessed the museum’s future which included its ability to be re-accredited, collections management, operations, exhibits and services, and its non-profit fundraising support. On January 13, 2015, during a special study session, Museum Management Consultants presented a report to the board of supervisors which included 29 recommendations that addressed many aspects of museum operations and specifically provided recommendations in order to prepare for the 2017 re-accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. The board subsequently adopted all 29 of these recommendations.”
Hernandez continued, “One of these recommendations addressed the museum advisory commission, which was originally established in 1960. The museum advisory commission was established in the San Bernardino County Code as consisting of 11 commissioners appointed by the board of supervisors, to provide advice and assistance with regard to museum matters. As part of Museum Management Consultants’ assessment process, interviews were conducted during which many current museum advisory commissioners felt that their participation could be utilized in a more productive capacity and felt that dissolving the museum advisory commission would not have a detrimental effect on the museum system. From this feedback and in conjunction with other recommendations, Museum Management Consultants concurred with the commissioners and recommended the museum advisory commission be dissolved. Museum Management Consultants also recommended that an active recruitment of museum advisory commission members to join the museum association board of directors commence to assist in greater fundraising efforts.”
The board on Tuesday complied with Hernandez’s recommendation.

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