Behind the Scenes with Exhibitions, Programs, and Facilities Manager, Jon Del Buono

April 19, 2021

We know, his title is a mouthful (we're working on it). But behind everything that happens at MSC, you'll find Jon Del Buono. After more than 4 years at the Museum, let's hear more about his favorite projects, what challenges he faced in 2020, and what he's looking forward to.


Tell us about yourself and why you wanted to work in a museum

I have worked at the Museum of Sonoma County twice now. In 2015, I left MSC to attend graduate school. After receiving my master’s in history from the University of Montana, I moved back to Sonoma county. I rejoined the MSC team in 2018. I live in Santa Rosa with my wife, daughter, cat, and dog.

The reason I want to work in a museum is because I love learning and figuring out ways to make history compelling. For a while, I thought I would get a PhD and work in academia, but with the way humanities are being cut and the general lack of interest at most institutions to make history accessible to the public, I felt I needed to find a different path. I figured working in a museum would be a great fit for me since the goal of any good museum should be to make the humanities accessible to all.

Jon highlights a disappearing painting in an MSC April Fool's photo.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There are very few typical days for me because I wear different hats. I always have something new to work on. One week I am focused on installing a new exhibition and the next I am working to get a broken HVAC system up and running. And maybe the week after that I am focused on organizing a panel discussion or book talk. And sometimes I am doing all of these in the same week. Right now, because the museum is preparing to reopen the full campus, I am focused on installing multiple exhibitions in the historic Post Office building.

Jon installing the clock hand from the old Santa Rosa courthouse in the 2018 exhibition, Lost Santa Rosa.

What have been your favorite MSC memories, exhibitions, or projects?

My favorite exhibition is always the one I just finished installing. It is such a great feeling to see a project I have been working on for months finished and on the wall. But if I had to pick a few favorite exhibitions, it would be Slang Aesthetics: Robert Williams (2015), Kinetics: Art in Motion (2019), and Hole in the Head: The Battle for Bodega Bay (2014). Robert Williams, because he is a legend in the art and comic world and I got the opportunity to visit the Zap Comics headquarters in San Francisco. That place is museum to the odd and the strange: such a cool experience. Kinetics because it brought in so many new people to the Museum, plus you got to interact with the art and it is always fun when you get to touch the art. It feels like you are getting away with something. And Hole in the Head because I learned so much about the county that I have called home for most my life.

One of my favorite projects was organizing the Hot Rod Street Party we put on for the opening of the Robert Williams exhibition. It was something so different and it felt good to see the community show up and support us.

Robert Williams leads a tour of his 2015 Slang Aesthetics exhibition.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020?

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make engaging virtual programs and exhibitions. You do not get the same type of feedback you normally get from live events. With virtual programing, you still put in long hours to put it together, then you put it online and wait for clicks or comments. It is not the same as interacting with guests at an opening reception or live event. The other big challenge was keeping the facilities operational while everyone was working from home. At one point, each building had some maintenance issue that needed my attention. And at the same time, I was taking over organizing the public programs/education department. Another challenge was staying motivated while we could not be open. So much of the museum experience is seeing things in-person. I love walking the galleries and overhearing visitors talk about something they learned or a piece of art that really moved them. But it is nice to know that we are finally moving towards reopening all our galleries to the public.

Jon and MSC staff at the 2020 Women's March at Old Courthouse Square.

What projects are you excited about?

There are a few projects I am excited about right now. We are collaborating with a group of local artists to bring the Portal Service that was Downtown into the Post Office side gallery, which I think is very fitting. I am also working on converting the large side gallery in the Post Office into a permanent exhibition that highlights famous mid-century artists that called Sonoma County home. This is part of a larger project to reconfigure our galley spaces so we can have longer-running/permanent exhibitions that show off parts of our collection that do not make it out of storage often. The biggest, and perhaps the most exciting, project that has come out of this is the conversion of our upstairs mezzanine gallery into a permanent Sonoma County history exhibition (Sonoma County Stories). I do not want to say too much about this yet, but what we have coming in the next year or so is exciting and I think the community will love it.

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.