Celebrating 90 Years of Art and History — June 14, 2021

For the year-long celebration of the Haggin Museum’s 90th Anniversary which kicks-off  – June 14, 2021, we will be focusing forward.  However, with a year that has experienced so much change, we are kicking-off the celebration by capturing Tod Ruhstaller’s sunset after nearly 37 years of service to the Haggin.

Below is a video of Tod fondly looking back at his years at the Haggin and passing the torch for the next chapter at the Haggin Museum.

Haggin Museum longtime staffer Susan Obert named new CEO

The Stockton Record
Published April 23, 2021

The Haggin Museum has announced longtime staffer Susan Obert has been named its new CEO, with board leaders calling her “the right person at the right time” for the iconic Stocktoninstitution. She will be the first woman to lead the nearly 100-year-old museum, a “treasured institution” she says it will be an honor to serve.

Obert will step into the role May 22, succeeding CEO and Curator Tod Ruhstaller, who announced his retirement in January after 37 years of service.

Obert has been with the museum for 19 years, as director of development, then as deputy director,The Haggin said in a news release announcing her appointment.

Haggin Museum: Ruhstaller reflects on endings, new beginnings ahead of a milestone week for the museum
With The Haggin’s 90th anniversary coming up in June, Obert said she is “honored and committed to taking on this next chapter in The Haggin’s future.”

“The Haggin could not have a more qualified person to serve as its next CEO than Susan,” saidRuhstaller, who told The Record earlier this month how happy he was with the selection of his replacement.

“In the 19 years she has been with the museum as its director of development and later as its deputy director, she has not only become familiar with practically every aspect of this institution’s everyday operations and management but has also become its public face through her many community outreach efforts and various social media platforms,” he said.

Obert said that while the museum has a world-class collection as its foundation, its strength has always been the museum’s volunteers, members, and the community.

Obert’s experience “is rooted in fund development, which provides her with a clear understanding of the importance for institutional financial sustainability, which has become even more critical as we emerge from the pandemic,” the museum said in the statement.

The museum cites her marketing and business background along with her deep commitment to community collaboration as factors in their choice. Her work in securing James Irvine Foundation grants led to the 2017 reinterpretation and redesign of The Haggin’s core art galleries, allowing the museum to “think bigger than we normally did … to think more about the community and people we’re serving,” she told The Record in 2010.

“As a committee, we took our responsibility of being stewards of the Haggin Museum legacy very seriously,” John McKinley, board chairman, and search committee member said. “Susan stood out as an experienced and highly-regarded leader who is deeply connected in our community and committed to collaboration. We felt strongly that she would be the right person at the right time for the institution.”

Obert was born in San Francisco and raised in Southern California, but since graduating from California State University, Fresno with her master’s degree in sports marketing, she has lived in the San Joaquin Valley. She and Andy Raugust moved to Stockton in 1998 while he was working on the course design for The Reserve at Spanos Park, and she enjoys outdoor activities such as sports, gardening, and walking with her Australian shepherd, Frank.

Obert has spent her entire career working in the nonprofit sector and her experience prior to working for the museum includes Delta Health Care in Stockton, Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock and the Fresno State Athletic Department in Fresno.

She says she has always been active in the community, from being a founding member of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of California to her work as a board member and current treasurer of VisitStockton.

Haggin Museum CEO and curator Tod Ruhstaller announces his retirement

by Bob Highfill, The Record
Published Jan. 7, 2021

STOCKTON – The Haggin Museum is losing one of its greatest treasures. Tod Ruhstaller has announced he will retire as chief executive officer and curator of history effective May 21. Ruhstaller and his wife of 39 years, Sandi, plan to move to the Wilmington, Delaware, area to be closer to one of their daughters and two of their three grandchildren. They also will have more opportunities to visit their daughter and her family in Denver.

“Tod’s impact on the Haggin Museum and our community will benefit us for decades to come,” said John McKinley, chair of the Haggin Museum’s Board of Trustees. “As a board, we recognize and thank Tod for his leadership in focusing on the museum’s mission and inspiring us all to recognize the importance of arts and culture in our community and society.”

Ruhstaller has been with the Haggin nearly 37 years, beginning when he was hired as curator of history. In 1988, Ruhstaller was promoted to director and curator. In 2010, his title changed to chief executive officer and curator. Prior to joining the Haggin, Ruhstaller was an archaeologist out of the University of California, Davis, and helped found the Far Western Anthropological ResourceGroup, a cultural resources consulting firm.

For close to a century, the Haggin Museum in Victory Park has been a Stockton institution, featuring works of art from the late-19th and early-20th centuries and historic pieces from the Central Valley and elsewhere. The museum’s origin can be traced to 1928, when Robert T. McKeeoffered the San Joaquin Pioneer and Historical Society $30,000 to build a history museum on behalf of his wife, Eila Haggin McKee, who required the museum be named in honor of her late father, Louis Terah Haggin; and that an art wing be added filled with paintings from her father’s collection.

Those who have worked with Ruhstaller said he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the museum’s art and history collections, and Stockton’s history.

“Tod Rustaller is one of the greatest things that ever happened to the Haggin Museum and Stockton,” said retired businessman Dick McClure, who has served 10 years on the Haggin board.

“He truly loves Stockton. He truly embraced its history in a very positive way and he was able to present it and relate it to the public of Stockton, the citizens of Stockton.”

Carol Ornelas, CEO of Visionary Home Builders in Stockton and a board member for eight years, described Ruhstaller as a “brilliant man of the arts.”

“It’s fascinating even to go to board meetings because there’s always history,” she said. “It’s very stimulating when he speaks about it, and his passion for the Haggin Museum has always been so phenomenal. He was the perfect fit for the museum.”

The board has established a search committee to find a replacement.

Susan Obert, deputy director of the museum, has worked 18 years with Ruhstaller and credits his ability to network and share the museum’s message in an enjoyable and palatable manner in helping the Haggin receive international acclaim.

“Tod loves the curator and history side of what he does and Stockton’s true history,” Obert said.“He takes great pride in his family’s roots in the community and he loves tying those stories into he does at the museum. I think it was a dream job for him.”

Ruhstaller’s parents, Annette and Dr. Frank Ruhstaller, met at the University of California, Berkeley. Tod was born in San Francisco but the family soon moved to Stockton, where Frank was a local pediatrician for almost 50 years and Annette raised Tod and his three brothers. Tod shared an interest in history with his mother, who studied history at Cal.

“She was my greatest resource,” Ruhstaller said about Annette, who passed away in 1999. “She grew up in Stockton and the two of us had that passion for history.”

Ruhstaller said his most fond accomplishments included steering the museum into far better financial footing than when he became director, achieving accreditation from the AmericanAlliance of Museums and renovations to the art galleries, including a collection of artwork by J.C.Leyendecker, who perhaps is most famous for his covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is we started the conservation of these pieces,” Ruhstaller.”They were part of a major renovation of all of our art galleries.”

Ruhstaller also helped attract traveling exhibits, hosted numerous speakers and visitors from all walks of life, including children through the museum’s education department that provided hands-on events for families such as art projects and interactive programs.

“The people I’ve worked with, the staff and volunteers and the friends I’ve made and the visitors I’ve met that share my interest,” said Ruhstaller when asked what he’ll miss. “It’s going to be tough, but there are grandchildren that I want to watch grow up, not on FaceTime but in real time.”

Record reporter Bob Highfill covers education, community news, and the wine industry. He can be reached at jhighfill@recordnet.com or on Twitter @bobhighfill. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at

Haggin Museum to open newly reimagined art galleries


October 3, 2017 – STOCKTON, Calif. – The newly reimagined art galleries at the Haggin Museum open to the public on Saturday, October 14, 2017. The stunning new spaces, designed by internationally recognized design firm Gallagher & Associates, will display the Museum’s collection of late 19th to early 20th century American and European fine art which is comprised of works by Albert Bierstadt, William Adolphe Bouguereau, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and more. A new, permanent space dedicated to 20th century illustrator J.C. Leyendecker includes a rare, in-depth look into his personal life with over 30 original pieces of artwork by the artist.

Each gallery is designed to showcase the Haggin Museum’s core art collection in a new and engaging way providing a more-connected learning experience for the visitor. Large introductory panels and contemporary labels, which include photographs, highlight the well articulated historical content and guide museum-goers through the spaces. Interactive digital kiosks offer additional engagement for guests, and feature thematic stories that connect the Haggin family history with American and European history.

“The six remodeled galleries coupled with the in-depth interpretation of our Haggin and Leyendecker art collections represent the most ambitious project in the museum’s 86-year history. These enhancements represent an investment that our Board of Trustees and staff believe will pay great dividends in terms of our visitors’ experience,” explained Tod Ruhstaller, CEO & Curator of History.

To celebrate the opening of the new galleries, the Haggin Museum is hosting an opening reception on Friday, October 13, 2017 beginning at 6:00 pm and ending at 9:00 pm. At this ticketed event, visitors will be the first to see and experience the reimagined art galleries. Guests are invited to enjoy wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres as they explore the new spaces. Toast and remarks given by Jim Hanley, Chair, Haggin Museum Board of Trustees; Tod Ruhstaller, CEO & Curator of History, Haggin Museum and Patrick Gallagher, Principal, Gallagher & Associates. Tickets are $50 per guest. For more information about “REVEALED” visit hagginmuseum.org/revealed, or contact Celia Castro at (209) 940-6316 or ccastro@hagginmuseum.org. The museum will be closed to the public on Friday, October 13th from 12 – 6 pm to prepare for our REVEALED event that evening.

As a gift to the community for their continued support, the Board of Trustees is opening the museum free to the public October 14 & 15, 2017. Regular pricing resumes Wednesday, October 18. On Saturday, October 14, the Haggin Museum will be hosting a variety of family-friendly activities throughout the museum from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. For more information concerning programs please contact Lindsey Munzel at (209) 940-6315 or lmunzel@hagginmuseum.org.


American Art Gallery
The American Art Gallery tells the story of the Haggin’s journey to California in the 1850s during the Gold Rush Era. As the family’s prosperity began to grow so did their collection of fine art. The American Art Gallery is separated into three major sections: View Masters, artists merging the European styles with American subject matter; The Hudson River School, trained artists exploring the undiscovered wilderness of the East Coast; Individualism, an artistic response to the social issues in America. As a whole, this collection of landscapes reflects the Haggin’s immersion in American culture of their time.

Haggin and McKee Galleries – European Art
The Haggin’s European art collection fills the Haggin and McKee Galleries highlighting the many facets of the glittering world of Europe in the late 19th century. This collection contains a wide array of subject matter such as cityscapes, animal paintings, and even fantasy. The Haggin family seemed to have enjoyed the diversity of the art in Europe, as their collection ranges from the more conservative, classical styles to the innovative and experimental works.

J.C. Leyendecker Gallery
The Haggin Museum houses the largest public collection of original art works by the “Golden Age” illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker. For the first time, there will be a permanent gallery space displaying a large portion of the Museum’s extensive collection. The gallery will have more than 30 pieces of original artwork from sketches to completed paintings giving an inclusive look into his process. Visitors will enjoy an intimate look into Leyendecker’s life with photographs, letters, and other personal items.

J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) was arguably one of America’s most popular commercial artists of the early 20th century. Many of his brilliant paintings became advertisements, selling items from men’s clothing to socks to breakfast cereal. Between 1952 and 1959, Earl Rowland (Director of the Haggin Museum from 1937-1963), acquired a large collection of works by Leyendecker along with a few other works by illustrators of the “Golden Age” era.

The new gallery features artwork created by Leyendecker for posters, advertisements, and magazine covers. In the center of the gallery are three sets of drawers containing sketches, photographs, letters, and paintings allowing visitors to access archival items in a more intimate way. Some drawers are filled with personal photographs and ephemera gifted to the Haggin Museum by Leyendecker’s sister Augusta, while others contain a glimpse into his artistic process with sketches and studies.


Digital Engagement
Museums are finding that the visitor experience is impacted dramatically by the integrations of comprehensive digital media systems. As part of the museum’s commitment to expand and enrich every aspect of the visitor experience, the Haggin Museum worked with the media design and production team at Gallagher & Associates to blend digital media into the physical environments of the core art galleries creating a more complete visitor integration.

A digital interactive kiosk will be located in three of the new galleries. “Their purpose is to explore thematic stories that weave together the Haggin family history, American and European history, and art history in an accessible and entertaining way for our visitors,” said Tod Ruhstaller, CEO & Curator of History. The touch screen kiosks will offer visitors two experiences both with varying levels of engagement: Free Exploration and Curated Experience. These new media interpretive stations will assist visitors in customizing their visit to meet their interests.

Visitor Experience
Coupled with the newly redesigned art spaces, the Haggin Museum’s Visitor Services Desk will be relocated to Hull Gallery. This new centralized location will serve as the Museum’s hub for visitor services, museum membership, and docent information.

New activity guides were created to spark imagination, creativity, and to foster connections with the history and art collections, and visitor maps were redesigned to be more user-friendly and interactive. These items will be made available in both digital and print formats so families can download a guide before their visits, or pick one up for free at the Visitor Services Desk.

Haggin Museum is a nonprofit art and history museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is located at 1201 N. Pershing Ave., Stockton, CA. and open to the public Saturdays & Sundays from 12-5 p.m. WednesdaysFridays from 1:30-5 p.m. and 1st & 3rd Thursdays from 1:30-9 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (ages 65 and older), $5 for students and youth (ages 10-17), and free for children under 10, museum members, and on the first Saturday of each month. For more information call 209.940.6300 or visit www.hagginmuseum.org. ###


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