Balboa Island Museum Announces New President

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A lifesize cutout of The Duke stands watch over the John Wayne exhibit at the Balboa Island Museum. Photo by Chris Trela

The Balboa Island Museum has been preserving local history for two decades. Part of that time was in an upstairs room on South Bay Front, and then in a vintage cottage on Marine Avenue (including a small gift shop that fronted Marine Avenue). In November of 2018, the Balboa Island Museum moved to its new larger home just down the street.

Shirley Pepys

Ten years ago, longtime Balboa Island resident Shirley Pepys got involved. She joined the museum’s board of directors, serving as president for the past five years.

Since her involvement, the Balboa Island Museum has grown in every way imaginable and taken on a more significant role in the community.

Now, a decade in, Pepys believes this is the right time to pass the torch of history to a new Museum president.

“It is with great anticipation and excitement that I announce the new museum president, Paula Castanon,” Pepys said in a statement. “Paula has been an invaluable member of the Board for the past two years, and a financial supporter of the museum for many years. Her skills are sure to bring about a seamless transition.”

Pepys will remain on the board as past president and concentrate on marketing and fundraising.

“I extend my gratitude to all the Museum supporters and am honored to have served as president for these past years,” said Pepys. “I look forward to our future as we continue to develop and grow.”

Paula Castanon

Castanon is president of All Ears Hearing Aids, Inc., an audiology office providing hearing health care in Orange County. According to Castanon, she grew up in New York and New Jersey and loved museums, theatre and the ocean. After her education she was off to Newport Beach.

“The museum is a remarkable place and brings us closer to our own history. I am incredibly proud to be involved with the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, and am excited to work with the board and our talented staff and volunteers,” Castanon said.

Balboa Island Museum Timeline

Pepys’ involvement with the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society started in 2011, when she was invited to view a building on Marine Avenue for a possible move of the museum from the original site—a small upstairs room on South Bay Front near the Balboa Island Ferry.

She took on the role as creative director and board member, and supervised the creation of the Balboa Island Museum. After a short time, she was able to negotiate the leasing of the storefront cottage on Marine Avenue, and the retail segment of the museum was born. This not only added to the museum’s revenue, but also helped with its branding.

Balboa Island Museum past president Shirley Pepys with a model of the Balboa Pavilion. Photo by Chris Trela

In 2015, Pepys was elected president of the board of directors. Along with board members Jack Northrup and Don Abrams, the focus became finding a larger facility on Marine Avenue to purchase or lease. In 2018, Pepys discovered that the store located at 210 Marine Ave., Art for the Soul, was going out of business. Pepys and the Museum board secured the lease, raised funds to help with the renovation and transition, and thanks in part to a generous grant from Julia and George Argyros plus annual grants from the City of Newport Beach, the new Balboa Island Museum opened in November of 2018.

The museum has been slightly rebranded as the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, but the mission remains the same: To collect, preserve and promote the culture and history of Balboa Island and Newport Beach.

Since the opening of the “new” museum nearly two years ago, almost 100,000 visitors have enjoyed the exhibits and learning about the history of Balboa Island, Newport Beach, and Orange County.

In March 2020, the museum – like other similar organizations – had to shut its doors due to COVID-19, but the Museum store remained open online with curbside pickup, selling everything from puzzles to other items.

Education presentations were added to the Museum’s website, which now boasts  ver 50 oral history interviews and Ten Minute History Talks by Celeste Dennerline.

The museum’s newest project involves a soon to be released film featuring Tim Mang, who reminisces about “Newport Harbor in the Golden Age” of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

For more information on the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, please visit

Shirley Pepys in the Balboa Island Museum. Photo by Chris Trela
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