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Huntington appoints its first curator of American decorative arts

December 2, 2009 |  9:44 am

Huntington

For more than 17 years, Harold B. Nelson served as the director of the Long Beach Museum of Art. For his new job, he has moved 30 miles to the north, where he has joined the curatorial team at the Huntington in San Marino.

Nelson will serve as its first curator of American decorative arts, the  Huntington Library, Art Collections  and Botanical Gardens said Monday. His responsibilities will include overseeing the institution's collection of decorative arts that numbers approximately 950 items and that date from the colonial period to the 20th century.

This isn't the first time Nelson has worked at the Huntington: He served as a guest curator for the reinstallation of the expanded Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, which opened to much fanfare in May.

The Huntington said that Nelson's appointment signals its growing commitment to the field of decorative arts. Among the items in the museum's collection are rare furniture, silver, ceramics and metalwork.

Speaking on the phone, Nelson said that he began his new job in July. He said he is currently working on an exhibition of work by the late furniture maker Sam Maloof that will open in 2011.

Nelson served as director of the Long Beach Museum of Art from 1989 to 2006. The institution has since come under scrutiny for the alleged mismanagement of money. In 2008, an audit raised questions over the way the museum spent $1.6 million in earmarked funds. 

A story in The Times that ran around that time stated that Nelson "was pushed out" of his job after more than 17 years. The Long Beach Museum of Art is currently engaged in a battle with the city of Long Beach after the city council decided to cut much of its funding.

Nelson declined to discuss his time at the Long Beach museum.

-- David Ng

Photo: an exterior view of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art at the Huntington. Credit: Weldon Brewster / The Huntington Library

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