about channel islands maritime museum

History

The Museum was the culmination of a shared vision by Harry Nelson, a collector of marine art and a
Channel Islands Harbor businessman, and by Bud Smith, the major developer of Fisherman’s Wharf,
both of whom desired to see a cultural asset at the Harbor.

About Harry Nelson

Two years before the museum opening in 1991, Harry Nelson formed a Board of Trustees and
became its Chairman. Harry was an attorney by profession, but became interested in marinas and
eventually established Almar Marinas, with two locations in Ventura County along with others in
California and in Mexico and Hawaii. His love and appreciation of maritime art began when he and
his wife, Joyce, on a trip to Europe in the sixties, purchased two small paintings. In the following
years, the collection grew into one of the finest privately-owned maritime-themed collections in the
world. The art is strong in its representation of 17th Century Dutch and British artists (Willem van de
Velde, Ludolf Backhuysen, John Wilson Carmichael, Bonaventura Peeters), as well as prominent
American painters (John Stobart, Thomas Hoyne, David Thimgan, Roy Cross, and others). Much of
the Nelson collection of marine art and models of historic ships is exhibited here in the Channel
Islands Maritime Museum. Before passing away in 2002, Harry established the
Nelson Maritime Arts Foundation to assure continued support of the Museum.

About Bud Smith

Ventura County can thank Bud Smith for much of its commercial development. Bud not only had a
hand in the Fisherman’s Wharf complex, but for most of what’s at the Harbor. He also developed
extensive holdings along the south side of the 101 freeway, known as the Wagon Wheel property, as
well as the Financial Plaza, said to be the tallest building between Los Angeles and San Jose. Prior to
his passing, Bud formed the Smith Foundation, which continues to provide financial assistance to the
Museum.

The Museum

The Museum began as the Ventura County Maritime Museum in 1990 at Fisherman’s Wharf at
Channel Islands Blvd and Victoria Avenue in Oxnard. It remained at this site until 2012 when it
moved to a new location across the Channel and was renamed the Channel Islands Maritime
Museum. Smith was to provide seed money for the building to house Nelson’s collection. Nelson pledged
$100,000, while volunteers and friends were to transform the bare-bones interior of the building into a
museum. The Ventura County Harbor Department lent their support to the effort by offering a no-rent
lease for the finished property. The Museum was launched as a non-profit corporation in February
1991, with a magnificent black-tie affair that reached out to the political and business “elite” of the
region. As from the beginning, the Museum’s Corporation continues to be governed by a Board of
Trustees that includes one of its original members, Gary Farr, and another long time member, Jerry
Miller.

 

The Collection

The Museum has an extensive and world-class maritime art collection, featuring 17th century Dutch
and Flemish masters such as Willem van de Velde and Bonaventura Peeters, 18th century British
artists Edward Cooke and Robert Salmon to noted modern day artists John Stobart, David Thimgan
and Tomas Hoyne. Ship models trace more that 3000 years of maritime history, from ancient
Egyptian reed boats and tomols used by local Chumash to modern day car carriers. The Museum
houses the largest collection of antique Prisoner of War sailing ship models on display in the United
States. These models, including eight rare bone models, were made by French prisoners of the British
during the Napoleonic Wars. In addition, the Museum exhibits the entire life’s work of Ed Marple, one
of America’s foremost ship model builders. Other exhibits on whaling, sailor’s arts, navigational
instrument and the history of the Channel Island Harbor and The Port of Hueneme round out the
permanent collection. Special topical and featured guest artist exhibitions are presented on an
ongoing basis.