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.