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Riverside Metropolitan Museum board rejects 3-year closure plan

By in Press Enterprise on June 15, 2017

By Alicia Robinson

The Riverside Metropolitan Museum’s advisory board and supporters have one message for city officials: don’t close the museum.

They pleaded on Wednesday, June 14, to keep the museum open even if the city renovates its more than century-old building downtown. But with Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen recommending a three-year closure, the next step is a showdown at the City Council meeting July 11.

Nguyen, who is running the museum until a new director is hired, proposed closing the facility so staff can focus on cataloging the 200,000-item collection and re-imagining the museum and its exhibits to appeal to 21st-century audiences.

During a closure, the city also would take other steps to avoid losing its accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and to raise money to fix the deteriorating Harada House.

Board members and residents worried that shuttering the museum would prevent the public from using its archives, discourage donors and deprive schoolchildren of a historical and cultural resource.

“No one is inspired by a closed museum,” resident Kevin Akin said.

The Riverside Metropolitan Museum, which features anthropology, regional history and natural science exhibits, has struggled through recession-era budget and staff cuts and several management changes.

Former museum director Vince Moses, who retired in 2006, and others laid the facility’s current woes at the feet of city leaders for whom the museum has not always been a priority.

“It is not in collapse and it is not in decline. It needs resources,” Moses said.

Nguyen didn’t soft-pedal his opinion in a report to the museum board, writing that the museum “needs to stop failing at almost everything it has been doing” and instead reorganize the facility and retrain staff.

“Our job as a museum is to care for, preserve our collection,” Nguyen told the board Wednesday. “We have not been doing this.”

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