Science Museum Director Muchmore Resigns Post

Times Staff Writer

Don M. Muchmore, the once controversial executive director of the California Museum of Science and Industry, is resigning his post immediately, but will continue as executive vice president of the supporting California Museum Foundation, he said Monday.

The 65-year-old Muchmore said the move is part of a planned phase-out “over the next 12 to 18 months” when he expects to leave his paid position with the nonprofit foundation and become a private museum consultant.

But before he ends his relationship with the museum and the foundation, Muchmore said, he hopes to raise an additional $10 million to $12 million to complete work on six major exhibits now under way at the Exposition Park museum.

“I’ve been thinking about it (leaving) for four or five months,” he said. “I just decided to go.”

Muchmore’s departure will leave the Museum of Science and Industry under the direction of its managing director, Jeffrey N. Rudolph, who is a state employee under a hybrid operation that combines running the museum as a public institution supported by a private foundation.


Rudolph said he will now be in charge of all the museum’s operations, except fund-raising--an area in which Muchmore has excelled for the last five years.

“More than anything it clarifies what has been an existing relationship for about a year,” Rudolph said.

Muchmore estimates that he has raised $68 million and hopes to close out his fund-raising efforts on the museum’s behalf with $80 million. He was also director of the museum in the late 1950s and 1960s, when he left to go into private business.

“I will continue working for the museum in the areas where I work best, helping to build an even greater museum and trying to make it indirectly the most significant educational institution in science, industry, mathematics, technology, economy and finance by providing the necessary funding,” Muchmore said.

After returning to the museum in 1982, Muchmore set out to raise $41 million to revamp the museum in time for the Olympics about 19 months later, and he was successful. Along the way, he developed a reputation as a tough, abrasive boss.

By mid-1985, according to a newspaper account, he had alienated a citizens advisory committee of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and many museum staffers, who claimed that they had been verbally abused and harassed with false accusations.

About six months later, the Legislature’s auditor general criticized Muchmore’s dual role with the museum and foundation, charging that state law prohibited a state employee from receiving outside compensation for work performed within his official duties.

The problem was solved when the Legislature approved a bill authorizing his dual relationship. Asked Monday about those past criticisms, Muchmore said:

“I’m a doer. I believe in work. I had a lot of state employees to contend with. I can say right now I don’t have an enemy on the staff. I had 19 months from the time I came on to the time of the Olympics. . . . You sometimes forget human beings, but they are all my friends now.”

In rebuilding the museum, Muchmore directed the development of the S. Mark Taper Hall of Economics and Finance, the Aerospace Complex, a 9,000-square foot exhibit of computers, the IMAX Theater, and the Hall of Health and Wellness.