Tag Archives: museum

State Museum board picks new chairman

News release from Tennessee State Museum
NASHVILLE— May 13, 2016— The State of Tennessee Museum announced today new officers were elected to the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission at the commission’s quarterly meeting held Monday, April 11, 2016. Nashville real estate investor and developer Tom Smith, Chairman of Smith/Hallemann Partners, was elected as Chair of the 14-member Commission whose primary purpose is to oversee the operations of the State Museum. Nancy Baker De Friece, a Bristol native, was re-elected as Vice Chair.

In addition to serving as the new Commission Chair, Smith also serves on the Governor’s New Museum Task Force, which is involved with the development of a new $160 million State Museum facility to be located in downtown Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall. Ground was broken by Governor Bill Haslam and other state officials on April 6, 2016. Smith was appointed to the Commission by Governor Haslam in 2012. He has previously served as the chair of the Commission’s Audit Committee and Chairs the Search Committee which is overseeing the new museum’s succession planning. Smith succeeds Deputy House Speaker and State Representative Steve McDaniel who will remain as a Commission member.

Smith is active in real estate and private company investments in Nashville and Cincinnati, Ohio. He also serves on the Investment Committee of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.

The public can now find out more information about upcoming Commission meetings, Committee meetings and agendas, as well as the background of Commission members, at the Tennessee State Museum website at: www.tnmuseum.org/commission.

Groundbreaking ceremony held for new TN State Museum

News release from Tennessee State Museum

NASHVILLE April 6, 2016 — Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Rep. Steve McDaniel, chairman of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, and Jon Meacham, Pulitzer prize winner and New York Times bestselling author, were on hand today to break ground on the new Tennessee State Museum.

The project represents a bold vision – part museum, part virtual reality and part time machine.

“What we’re planning to accomplish with a new state museum is a 100-year project — in terms of both quality and stature, and I want to thank the General Assembly for its partnership and commitment to make this investment,” Haslam said. “We’re taking an innovative, hybrid approach to the museum’s design that will be an extraordinary experience and will complement the other cultural and entertainment opportunities Tennessee has to offer.

“Tennessee’s history has played an important part in our country’s history, and we have a really interesting and dynamic story to tell.” Continue reading

New museum plans unveiled, new leadership debated

Tennessee State Museum commissioners on Monday saw a conceptual design presentation for a new $160 million facility before later arguing over how quickly to replace the museum’s longtime director, Lois Riggins-Ezzell.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

Meanwhile, Riggins-Ezzell was named a non-voting member of the very search committee named to replace her. She later told reporters she doesn’t want to leave the post she’s held for 35 years.

“I want to help the new museum,” Riggins-Ezzell said, later adding, “I want to stay. I am the museum director.”

Earlier, members of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission heard from presentations from project coordinator Mark Cate, former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Haslam.

The governor is taking the lead role on raising $40 million that will supplement a $120 million state appropriation approved last year for the facility. The new building will replace the current museum housed in the basement of the James K. Polk State Office Building. Work is scheduled to begin this spring.

Museum commissioners also heard from Patrick Gallagher, president of Gallagher & Associates, whose firm is designing the exhibit experience for the 50,000-square-foot building that will go up on the state’s Bicentennial Mall near the state Capitol.

“This could easily be a multi-day experience for visitors,” said Gallagher, as he described various galleries with artifacts and interactive displays outlining Tennessee history, culture and more.

He also presented conceptual drawings, which officials stressed were not yet set in concrete.


Commissioners later followed up on their October meeting where they agreed to begin a succession plan for Riggins-Ezzell.

A state comptroller’s performance audit last year raised concerns about the lack of a succession plan while the new $160 million museum is under development. Riggins-Ezzell, meanwhile, has come under criticism for some actions and has been accused of engineering the removal of two members of the Tennessee Museum Foundation, who had raised operational and other concerns.

The foundation is the chief fundraising arm of the museum for purchases of historical artifacts and art.

Haslam’s Human Resources Department is helping commissioners structure the search, as well as aiding the museum on new workforce planning.
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State museum board to seek new leader

The Tennessee State Museum’s governing board agreed Monday to begin the process for replacing longtime executive director Lois Riggins-Ezzell after a new performance audit of the museum raised concerns about the lack of a succession plan while a new $160 million museum is under development, reports Richard Locker.

Riggins-Ezzell has led the museum for 34 years and most of her senior management staff have also been in place for several years. The state Legislature in April approved $120 million in public funding for a new museum building on the state’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville, to replace cramped quarters in three basement levels of a state office building where it’s been for nearly 30 years. Gov. Bill Haslam is leading an effort to raise another $40 million in private donations.

“One of the things that was significant (in the audit) that caused us pause is that we don’t have a succession plan,” museum commission member Tom Smith said during a meeting of the commission in Memphis. “Lois has made no secret that she’s going to retire. With the new museum, it makes perfect sense for this commission to discuss a succession plan.”

Smith and state Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, the museum commission chairman, plan a meeting for Oct. 27 with other state officials on the process for selecting a search firm to carry out a national search for a new executive director. Riggins-Ezzell has not said when she plans to retire but told reporters this summer she hopes to remain on board, while helping transition to a new director, until the new museum’s targeted opening in 2018.

…The commission also approved new guidelines for acquisitions for the museum drafted by its acquisitions committee Chairwoman Deanie Parker of Memphis. Ashe has criticized the museum staff for acquiring most of its art and artifacts from Middle Tennessee sources, with considerably fewer from East and West Tennessee.

Further. excerpting from an Andy Sher story:

Commission member Victor Ashe, a former Knoxville mayor who has been critical of Riggins-Ezzell and has openly called for her replacement, said in an interview later that “I’m cautiously optimistic that this will result in needed change.”

But he added that “until I see it happening, it hasn’t happened. I’m pleased the commission is moving in the right direction.” He said a proper search could take six to eight months.

…Bob Thomas, the Museum Foundation’s chairman, on Monday applauded the move to begin finding a successor.

“I feel the commission moved forward in a positive way regarding the succession plan. I’m happy with what they decided.”

Thomas also serves on Haslam’s new seven-member steering committee which is charged with raising the $40 million in private funds.

Audit finds problems in State Museum operations

The state Comptroller’s Office found a series of problems in operations of the Tennessee State Museum in an audit released today, ranging from questionable hiring practices to not keeping track of alcoholic beverages kept at the museum.

“The Tennessee State Museum is empowered to preserve and exhibit some of Tennessee’s most important historical artifacts,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson in a press release accompanying the audit. “It is vital that the museum correct problems and follow its procedures to ensure the integrity of its operations and collections.”

Mary Skinner, a spokeswoman for the museum, downplayed the audit results.

“All of the findings point out strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s paperwork, policies and procedures or protocols, all of which we believe to be helpful in providing additional checks and balances for operational implementation,” Skinner said. “We have addressed all of the audit’s findings under which we have control.”

The audit comes amid a controversy over whether the museum’s longtime executive director, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, should be replaced while efforts are underway to raise more than $40 million in private donations to go with $120 million in taxpayer funds allocated to building a new museum, scheduled for completion in December 2018. The audit includes at least one finding that may indicate the need for a new museum: There has been water damage to artifacts stored at the present museum.
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Museum housing art owned by museum board member

The Tennessee State Museum houses nearly 200 works of art owned by a member of the State Museum Commission, which oversees the museum, reports WTVF.

The arrangement has raised concerns from another commission member about whether taxpayers are paying to store privately owned art — despite limited space and staff at the museum.

Commissioner Walter Knestrick is a longtime collector of the works of Tennessee artist Red Grooms. Many of the Grooms paintings that he owns are located at the Tennessee State Museum.

“Taxpayers should not pay for the storage for paintings which are privately held and no date for a final donation has been determined,” Commissioner Victor Ashe told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

But the longtime executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, passionately defended the arrangement.

Riggins-Ezzell disputed criticism from Ashe, but was occasionally told to watch her comments by the museum’s media relations person who sat in on the interview.

“There’s no bad use of public money,” Riggins-Ezzell insisted. “There’s no bad use of manipulating a system to help an old rich man.”

…Victor Ashe told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, “Taxpayers should not pay for the staff time to select and package privately owned items out of state.”

Riggins-Ezzell responded, “I certainly have great respect for the concerns Mr. Ashe may have. We simply are seldom on the same page.”

…Riggins-Ezell said the museum is fortunate that Knestrick loaned the art to the museum and is now in talks to gift them.

“What a gift this is for the citizens of Tennessee. Who would want for the citizens of Tennessee not to have this in perpetuity?”” Riggins-Ezzell asked.

But currently there is no written agreement between Knestrick and the state for him to donate the paintings.

Until that time, Ashe said, its wrong they are stored, insured and displayed at museum expense.

Riggins-Ezzell said the paintings don’t cost the state more to insure because it has a blanket policy.

She said Knestrick and the Tennessee Attorney General are working on an official agreement to donate the works of art.

TN State Museum audit prepared, policy changes eyed

An audit of the Tennessee State Museum has been completed and will be presented to members of the museum’s board of directors at a scheduled meeting in Memphis on Oct. 5, according to a spokesman for Comptroller Justin Wilson.

The spokesman, John Dunn, said in a copy of the draft audit by the state comptroller’s office has been provided to the museum management, including Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell, for a response to findings. In accord with auditing policies, he declined to provide any information on those findings in advance.

But former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe said he understands informally that one curious finding is that the museum management keeps alcoholic beverages on hand without properly securing them.

“I didn’t even know we had alcohol there,” said Ashe, a member of the board officially known as the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission.
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On TN State Museum, artwork and critics

Since former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe accused the Tennessee State Museum of geographic bias in contemporary art purchases, the museum has bought works by four East Tennessee artists — although still spending more money in Middle Tennessee, a review of records provided by the museum indicates.

Ashe, a member of the museum’s board of directors, says the purchases of works by living artists from outside Middle Tennessee over the past two years are a step in the right direction, but “to balance the past discrimination, they’d have to buy almost everything from East and West Tennessee for years to come.”

Ashe said he intends to raise the notion of replacing the museum’s longtime executive director, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, at a meeting of the museum board — formally known as the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission — set for Oct. 5 in Memphis.

The commission’s chairman, Republican state Rep. Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads, says he is open to the idea of discussing creation of a search committee to consider a successor to Riggins-Ezzell, 75, who has led the museum since 1981 and who has expressed an intention to “stay as long as I can” — at least until a planned new $160 million museum is completed and opened. That is scheduled for December 2018.
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Cate is project coordinator of new museum at $120K per year

Mark Cate, who resigned Aug. 1 as Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief of staff, has since signed a $10,000-per-month contract to serve as “project coordinator” in developing a new Tennessee State Museum, scheduled to open in December, 2018.

“He will oversee the entire project,” said Robert “Bobby” Thomas, a Nashville attorney and chairman of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation. “Mark Cate knows all the players extremely well and I think he will be an excellent person to coordinate the effort.”

Officially, the contract is between Cate’s newly established consulting firm — Stones River Group, LLC — and the foundation, which raises money to support museum operations and is now responsible for collecting at least $41.75 million in private donations to go with $120 million in state funds allocated for building a new state museum.

Effectively, Cate will be a middleman in coordinating efforts of the foundation, its fundraisers, a separate board that oversees general museum operations, the museum staff headed by veteran Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell, and Haslam’s administration. The state Department of General Services is lead agency in the project for Haslam, who presided last week in a “steering committee” meeting.
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