The Museum of Ventura County (MVC) is seeking a dynamic, process-driven, and equity-minded individual to fill the key position of Chief Curator at the most pivotal time since the MVC first opened its doors at its current downtown Ventura site in 1977. Following the MVC’s dramatic revitalization under the leadership of Elena Brokaw, the Barbara Bernard Smith Executive Director, the county’s premier history and art museum has become a beloved and well-resourced institution with rich ties to its community and a strong presence across the county. With a talented and ambitious staff, the opportunity offers the potential to essentially build a department. This individual will shape and advance the vision of the Museum through the future-forward conceptualization of dynamic exhibitions and collaborative public programming that weave together and bring alive Ventura county’s rich history.
Background of the Museum of Ventura County
The mission and vision of the MVC is to inspire its county’s vibrant communities by connecting the past, present, and future through its collections, exhibitions, educational programs and publications, illuminating the history, art, and culture of Ventura County and the Channel Islands. The Museum’s beginnings trace back to 1913 with the development of collections of artifacts and historical material culture including priceless Chumash, Spanish, and Mexican American objects from the region. The Museum grew over time to be the official repository of such items for Ventura County and all ten of its major cities including Thousand Oaks, Ojai, and the county seat, the City of Ventura.
MVC’s vast collections now comprise over 30,000 objects and works of art alongside the research library’s holdings of over 170,000 documents of historical significance to the county. By 2012, MVC occupied two buildings, with its main site in Ventura situated along its historic main street. The main site offers changing exhibitions, an area dedicated to the Chumash, an events pavilion, a children’s garden, and the Research Library. In Santa Paula, 17 miles away, the MVC’s Agriculture Museum presents the rich agricultural history of Ventura Country through remarkable artifacts and community programming across three exhibition spaces and a garden that serves as an active gathering place for the community’s school-aged children. Today the Museum serves over 40,000 individuals a year with an operating budget of nearly $3,000,000, a full-time staff of 14 and additional part-time staff of 20. MVC’s stated core values are Inclusivity, Boldness, Empathy, and Integrity, and its current goal is no less than to be one of the top county museums of history and art in the nation.
Qualified candidates will possess a cultivated or demonstrated ability to tell stories through objects and interpretation, have professional-level experience in museums and/or higher education, and a passion for history and culture that aligns with the organization’s mission and geographic focus. Respective to the region and its Native and Indigenous communities, the Chief Curator will bring an empathetic and intuitive mindset, along with a healthy appetite for expansive thinking and risk taking, to developing exhibition themes that resonate with the diverse cultures and Native tribes of Ventura County. Working closely with the Executive Director, senior leadership, and Board committees, the role is by nature extremely collaborative and idea driven. Leading with natural curiosity, the Chief Curator will explore the Museum’s vast collections and be energized by the limitless possibilities for innovative storytelling. With a talented array of open-minded and receptive professionals and museum supporters, the Chief Curator will lead the charge to create, organize, and present impactful exhibitions that connect individuals of all ages to the present and future, through recognizing, exploring, and appreciating the past.
The Chief Curator will also be responsible for efforts to build the Museum’s collections and serve as the leading voice for its curatorial mission and public-engagement programs as they relate to exhibitions. Easefully engaging in and cultivating relationships with donors, collectors, community partners and museum members will be vital to the continued visibility of the MVC. The position will directly supervise the Exhibitions Manager and Collections Manager and work across the organization by closely partnering with key senior leaders including the Directors of the Research Library & Archives, Visitors Experience, Programs, Finance and HR, and Development while also functioning as a key strategist and advisor to the Executive Director.
Responsibilities and Expectations
• Plan, develop, and present dynamic and relevant original and collections-based exhibitions and related programs, with holistic and story-centered lens, which are relevant and impactful, connecting individuals of all ages to the present and future, through recognizing, exploring, and appreciating the past.
• Serve as a thought partner, strategist, and idea-generator to the MVC senior leadership team helping to develop a strong methodology for exhibition development.
• Develop active and engaged relationships with Board and committee members, as well as connections to partners, stakeholders, and community members throughout the region.
• Oversee and mentor curatorial staff, managing department budgets and policies, and improving on current protocols including documentation and collections procedures.
• Possess an authoritative, scholarly, and creative confidence in the interpretation of exhibitions, ensuring the accuracy, relevance, and impact of exhibition content.
• Innovate and advance cross-departmental relationships in exhibition content, presentation, and programming, working across the organization as well as with Marketing and Education.
• Partner with MVC’s fundraising efforts to build support for the collection, exhibitions, and public programs and lead efforts to build the collection through gifts and financial support, often serving as a key spokesperson.
• Evaluate and assess all exhibitions and related programs, events, and other interpretive planning activities as appropriate and/or in partnership with key staff.
• Bring marketing and social-media acumen, actively contributing to the promotion and overall communications strategy for exhibitions and events.
Experience, Skills and Attributes
• At least 5 years of demonstrated success in a curatorial capacity in a museum or relevant experience in an institution of higher education.
• A strong professional track record and experience in strategic planning and building collaborative institutional and individual relationships–particularly with underrepresented and Indigenous communities.
• Specialization in local, regional, or state history is required, and a knowledge of California history is highly desired.
• Demonstrated ability to work well with diverse stakeholders with varying levels of knowledge/experience.
• Ambitious, creative, energetic, collaborative, and inspiring with a natural empathetic ability to relate to a wide range of individual and institutional partners.
• Comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and adept at managing multiple projects and competing priorities with grace and humility.
• Strong public speaking and presentation skills, able to deliver compelling narratives to a wide range of audiences.
• Commitment to the mission of the Museum of Ventura County.
• An MA in History, Anthropology, Public History, American Studies, or a related field.
• Bilingual and Biliterate English and Spanish language proficiency.
• Scholarship in the field including exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions.
• $95,000 – 120,000 per annum (commensurate with experience)
• The position is based in Ventura, primarily at its campus on Main Street, and would allow for 1-2 hybrid days per week, as the Chief Curator becomes more familiar with the role. Residency in Ventura County would be expected.
• Benefits package includes generous PTO and participation in a health plan.
Nominations are welcome.
To apply in confidence, email 1) a letter expressing interest in this position and giving brief examples of past related experience; 2) a résumé; 3) names of three references with contact information. Submit application by January 9, 2023 to retained search firm: Suzanne Tan, Museum Search & Reference, SearchandRef@museum-search.com. References will not be contacted without prior authorization.
For additional information visit: http://museum-search.com/open-searches/.
The Museum of Ventura Country is committed to fair and accessible employment practices, and all qualified candidates are encouraged to apply for this search.