Interim director brings renewed ambition to Richmond museum

Interim director brings renewed ambition to the Richmond Museum of History and Culture
Desiree Heveroh at the Richmond Museum of History and Culture (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

The Richmond Museum of History and Culture has new leadership, a refreshed look, and a sharpened focus on ensuring every last resident and visitor has ample access to local history.

Desiree Heveroh, a Richmond native, is serving as interim executive director for the Museum at 400 Nevin Ave. following the departure of Melinda McCrary, now executive director of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum.

Heveroh said her goal is to ensure that all community members from Richmond and beyond, including all local schoolchildren, can take advantage of the many resources harbored by West Contra Costa’s most significant history museum, housed in a Carnegie Library built in 1910.

“Having grown up in Richmond, no one ever told me about Richmond’s history,” Heveroh said. “All of the children and youth of Richmond should be taught about the history of our city. That is one of the main objectives of the Museum, to educate and teach them the true history of Richmond.”

The Museum’s mission statement reflects the desire to preserve, study, research and disseminate the city’s history to all residents and visitors. Within its walls, history is told via a vast collection of books, periodicals, ephemera, photographs, maps and artifacts, providing education on history spanning as far back as the prehistoric period, Native American heritage, the Spanish/Mexican period, early American/Industrialist period, the WWII Home Front, post WWII and up through today.

The permanent exhibit features the first Model A Ford made at the Richmond Ford Assembly Plant, now the Craneway Pavilion. 

Heveroh is no stranger to being a steward and keeper of Richmond history. She was the Light Station Keeper at East Brother Light Station for 14 months during the pandemic, and is now Shipkeeper on the S.S. Red Oak Victory ship and Innkeeper and General Manager of the Hotel Mac.

“I feel proud of our City, because the Richmond Museum is a true reflection of business, industry and growth but more importantly it reflects the early integration of World War II in the 1940s,” Heveroh said. “Richmond is one of the original melting pots.”

The Museum had not been refreshed since the 1990s, said Heveroh. Over the past three months, Heveroh and Collection & Gallery Manager Victoria Stuhr have made changes that Heveroh calls “simply amazing.”

“We have refreshed the school exhibit, the Ford exhibit and other exhibits which Victoria and I brought to life,” she said.

Heveroh noted preparations are underway for a significant Native American exhibit based upon a collection by local anthropolist and Richmond resident George Coles, who led the excavation of the northeast shore of Brooks Island off the Richmond bay shore. The Museum is seeking a Native American artist to design an exihibit that will last for decades.

Coles served on the Richmond Museum’s Board of Directors and when died in 2015, the Museum inherited his entire collection of artifacts and papers. Funding for the Native American exhibit came from a grant from the Lesher Foundation.

A recent addition to the Museum is the Arnautoff mural “Richmond Industrial City,” which was installed at the downtown post office in April 1941 and later stored away in the basement. The mural ended up forgotten for nearly four decades until it was rediscovered in 2014 and restored.

Arnautoff mural

More Museum enhancements are to come, said Heveroh, who admits her plans for the Museum “are a very ambitious moon shot.”

“But when people tell me things are impossible, it only fuels my desire to make it possible,” she said.

The Richmond Museum of History and Culture is open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit its website here or call (510) 235-7387.