Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Attractions and Indiana State Museum and Government & Economic Development and Philanthropy

Indiana State Museum chief Dressel abruptly resigns

October 14, 2009

Barry Dressel has resigned as the president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum, the state's Department of Natural Resources confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

DNR Director Robert Carter said he was informed of the resignation by Indiana State Museum Foundation Chairman Greg Pemberton. The foundation hires and fires the museum’s top manager, while all other personnel work for the DNR.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Dressel said he was not allowed to say anything about the matter.

“There’s not going to be any statement from me,” Dressel said. He referred questions about the circumstances of the resignation to Pemberton.

When reached later in the day, Pemberton declined to say whether Dressel resigned on his own or was forced out. He referred only to a prepared statement.

“We appreciate Barry Dressel’s service and his contributions to the museum’s strategic direction,” Pemberton said in the statement. “We are, however, looking at restructuring to address the financial realities of the economy and state revenue projections, involving a greater emphasis on fund-raising and generating earned revenue."

Pemberton gave Dressel credit for helping win the Lincoln Financial Foundation collection, leading development of "mission-specific" exhibits and reinforcing the institution's identity as the "museum of science and culture."

Museum Executive Vice President Kathleen McLary, a 30-year veteran of the Division of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, has been appointed Interim Director of the museum and the division. Ron Newlin, who works for the foundation in fund raising will serve as the foundation's director on an interim basis.

Newlin directed a $35 million capital campaign for a new museum building, which opened in 2002 in White River State Park. Dressel rehired him earlier this year to help raise additional funds.  

Dressel, 62, was hired away from the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Michigan in 2007 after the museum went a year with no chief executive. He was the fifth president and CEO at the museum since 2000.

The museum and 12 historic sites around Indiana that are run by the DNR have been facing tight budgets. State funding for the museum, $5.96 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30, has fallen 21.5 percent since 2007. The marketing budget, meanwhile, is down 50 percent, to $205,000, over the same period.

Dressel told IBJ  this month that he expected museum attendance to drop 20 percent this fiscal year due to reduced marketing. That’s after sliding 13 percent last year, from 163,706 in fiscal year 2008 to 142,647.

The museum opened in its current home in 2002 with blockbuster attendance of 260,000.

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