The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) tells the inspiring stories of Nantucket through its collections, programs, and properties. Since assuming the post in September 2017, and working closely with President Kelly Williams, Russell hopes to create a sense of rediscovery in the mission by framing the Nantucket story in a global, historical, cultural and societal context, with relevance for diverse audiences today. Emphasis will be placed on entrepreneurial thinking, all the while remaining responsive to a community-centric approach to inclusive programming and civic engagement.
Russell was President and CEO of the New Bedford Whaling Museum from 2008 through 2017. The museum is viewed as a cultural center. The operating budget ran a surplus for each of his 9 years. In addition, the organization raised over $20M in private funds for capital projects to eliminate debt, invest in the endowment and campus. The endowment grew from $4M to $14M on his departure. Attendance was on track to surpass 100,000 in 2017. Its holdings of 750,000 items is the largest collection of whaling related items in the world.
At the International Yacht Restoration School and The Museum of Yachting in Newport, RI, Russell served as Vice President during a period of dramatic growth of its programs, fundraising and campus. Previously at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, RI, Russell worked with the America's Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee and organized four international induction ceremonies. At the Boston Center for the Arts, he managed a capital campaign for the renovation of the historic Cyclorama building. Named Director to the Attleboro Museum in 1994, he managed its relocation to new quarters, establishing it as an anchor in the revitalization of the downtown.
Mr. Russell attended Harvard, where he majored in science with additional coursework in the visual arts. Following undergraduate work, he completed a two-year apprenticeship with noted sculptor Dimitri Hadzi. A US citizen and resident of Attleboro, MA by way of England and Ireland, James and his wife, Delia, have two children: Aine, age 22, and Owen, age 20. Delia Russell is the project coordinator of the Black Women's Health Study at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center.