Phase III: The System Installation
Transforming the Dreier Collection into the Dreier Museum required a vision, a gallery space and a supervisory staff. The visionary was Chad’s wife Ginni, who suggested in late 2003 that the collection be housed for display in a building Chad had recently rehabbed as a rental property. Before long, the one-story, 20,000-sq.-ft. complex, perched high above Santa Barbara with spectacular ocean views, was converted into an elegant gallery befitting such a prestigious collection. But with Chad working long hours at Ryland, there still remained the question: Who would serve as the Dreier Museum’s curator?

Doug Dreier, an enthusiastic 30-year-old educator in New Mexico by that time, answered the call of duty. He had studied English and Theater at Western Washington University (’96), and earned his Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (’00). Now, Doug’s avid lifelong devotion to reading, history, sports and teaching made him an ideal fit to curate the burgeoning Dreier Museum and lead interactive tours for invited guests and charitable benefit attendees.

He immediately stepped up to the plate, collaborating with Chad on purchasing decisions; stressing the importance of dramatic, visitor-friendly 3-D memorabilia to complement the 2-D cards; and rounding out the four major sports with a greater representation of items from boxing, golf, soccer, even wrestling. (Hulk Hogan’s WWF ring-worn boots eventually proved a reliable favorite among museum-goers.) Doug also demonstrated a keen eye for how best to visually contextualize each gallery piece for maximum accessibility—often through exhaustively researched bios, photo matches and related paraphernalia. To hear Doug tell it, he’ll always be a classroom teacher at heart, and so he has a profound passion for “completing the story, creating the experience.”

Chad and Doug hosted their first gala event at a then partially filled Dreier Museum on July 4, 2004. In the ensuing years, they took their enterprise to the next level, buying up a significant portion of the Duke Hott Collection of gridiron greatness, expanding the museum’s holdings into pop culture (with a focus on the “best of the best” of original Hollywood memorabilia), gems and minerals (a 24-ounce gold nugget, a beautiful assortment of diamonds in various colors and shapes), and fossils (including one of the largest known wooly mammoth tusks). As with the sports wing, Chad and Doug imbued their non-sports rooms with painstaking attention to detail and artistry—even elaborately painting the walls to complement certain themes and, in a spectacle that must be seen to be believed, constructing a Night at the Museum-like action diorama of classic original 12-inch G.I. Joes.

“Most people collect only one thing,” Chad says. “I like everything. I’m just a kid with a big toybox.” And the apple apparently doesn’t fall far from the tree, since father and son both report being in lockstep when it comes to their predilections. Case in point: If they separately peruse the same auction catalog and choose 20 items of interest, Chad and Doug almost invariably find that 15 of their selections are identical. They’ve also perfected their technique of staying within budget by implementing a three-tiered desirability scale, which categorizes the worth of prospective pieces as “below estimate,” “at estimate” or “above estimate.”

What’s more, the Dreier men are more than mere business partners—they’re best friends, too. Rather than part ways after working side by side all day, Chad and Doug often share dinner together along with their wives Ginni and Hanne (both of whom have been instrumental in operational decisions), and Doug and Hanne’s three children, plus Chad and Ginni’s daughter Kristin (the museum’s marketing consultant) and her husband Rob. Perhaps the single greatest asset to the Dreier Museum’s success is that it has always been a family affair.
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