Whaling Museum Names New President

By Steve Urbon
Standard-Times Senior Correspondent

NEW BEDFORD — The 43-year-old former vice president of the International Yacht Restoration School and Museum of Yachting in Newport, R.I., has been voted the new president of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
James P. Russell won a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society to take over the position vacated by Anne B. Brengle, who resigned last year to take the helm of the U.S. Coast Guard Foundation.
Museum Trustee John N. Garfield Jr., who has been acting head of the museum in the interim, said that Friday’s vote came “with great enthusiasm and excitement” after a brief discussion.
Mr. Russell will start Monday in his new position, the salary for which was not disclosed.
“We feel we have found the right person to represent the Whaling Museum in a significant, inclusive, enthusiastic and collaborative way in the community,” said Janet Whitla, chairwoman of the board. “We are confident that Mr. Russell’s strong museum experience coupled with his deep appreciation for art and cultural affairs will be decisive factors in ensuring the continued position of the organization as the pre-eminent whaling museum in the country and the leading cultural facility in the region.”
The selection of a new museum head was slowed when the first round of interviews produced two candidates, one with a no-compete clause in his (or her) existing employment and another with complicated personal circumstances that prevented taking this job.
Mr. Russell, a Harvard graduate and native of Great Britain who lived for some time in Ireland, has 15 years experience in nonprofit educational institutions, a lifetime interest in art and a decade of experience with maritime museums.
In a prepared statement, he said New Bedford caught his attention a year ago, when community leaders invited him to bring the IYRS Classic Yacht Cruise to New Bedford.
“I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of so many people,” he said. “The mayor and his offices were incredibly supportive. This demonstrated to me the close and effective working relationship between the museum and city, and it also demonstrated the critically important role the museum plays in the New Bedford community.”
At Harvard, Mr. Russell majored in science with additional studies in art. Later, he served a two-year apprenticeship with noted sculptor Dimitri Hadzi.
In 1994, he was named director of the Attleboro Museum, which he relocated to new quarters downtown and established as an anchor in the revitalization of the area. Acting as both director and curator, he presented exhibits and events that focused on community outreach and engagement.
He also worked at the Boston Center for the Arts, managing a fundraising campaign for the renovation of its Cyclorama building in conjunction with funding an education program serving youth. While he was at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I., the museum was awarded several significant federal and state grants for renovation and preservation of the campus. Mr. Russell led record fundraising for both operating and capital projects and worked with the America’s Cup Hall of Fame selection committee organizing four induction ceremonies, according to the Whaling Museum.
At IYRS, Mr. Russell established what was termed a “culture of giving,” turning school finances around and expanding philanthropy. When an opportunity arose for IYRS to merge with the Museum of Yachting, he guided that transition and repositioned the museum as an educational institution.
A resident of Attleboro, Mr. Russell and his wife, Delia, have two children: Aine, 13, and Owen, 11. Delia Russell is the project coordinator of the Black Women’s Health Study at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center.
Contact Steve Urbon at surbon@s-t.com.
September 19, 2008
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080919/NEWS/80919007

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