Letters to the Editor

Letters for January 4, 2001

A concerned museum member
Fort Lauderdale

A second Gypsy-hater speaks:
Regarding "Bones of Contention," I have to voice my annoyance with your reporter's insistence that the Graves Museum is a "kiddie museum."Since I moved to the area from the Washington, D.C., area earlier this year, I have visited the museum twice and have found something new and interesting on each trip. My tour was conducted professionally, thoroughly, and with enthusiasm. No matter what the reporter, Mrs. Graves, or Dr. Petuch thinks, I believe that children's education programs are extremely important. Based on the author's analysis, both the Field Museum in Chicago and the Smithsonian in D.C. should be classified as kiddie museums, as on each of my visits, they were swarming with children.

In fact, I'd probably have no appreciation for the arts and sciences if my parents and teachers didn't cart us kids to the Smithsonian on occasion or put in the extra effort to make learning fun. Thank goodness the influential people of my formative years had the same synergistic philosophy on arts, culture, and education as the current Graves Museum management. Sow the seeds early and reap the benefits for a lifetime.

Given the option it seems that Mrs. Graves, Mr. Petuch, and Mr. Whitby would prefer "her" museum to remain in a 1940s, Indiana Jones­movie time warp. Well, welcome to the new millennium! Maybe it's time to consider that the way to get and maintain patronage, corporate sponsorship, and research grants is to keep up with the times, allowing technology to support and trends in program development to drive the museum's goal of long-term subsistence.

Mr. Whitby seems more interested in Mr. Zidar's fashion sense than the more serious issue of maintaining a museum with limited funding. I personally would prefer to patronize a museum that is ethically and professionally managed than one operated by a woman who in her own and Mr. Whitby's words, is nothing more than a relic thief, stuffing fossils and artifacts she had no business taking into garbage bags and sneaking them out of the countries she "explored." Neither her name-dropping nor her methods of artifact acquisition impress me.

Based on the research in your article, Mrs. Graves and the Broward County Archaeological Society:

• passed overwhelmingly bylaws they admitted contained disturbing loopholes simply because the BCAS board members didn't have time to reconvene on the issue;

• had a year and a half to correct the errors they made by signing the loophole-laden proposal, yet failed to correct their mistakes;

• are blaming a lawyer they hired to develop the bylaws, apparently because they didn't engage in the decision-making process; and

• agreed to settle one claim against the museum out of court, awarding Mrs. Graves money and the return of some of "her" artifacts. Why didn't she include these "new" claims, over a seat on the museum board, with her original complaint?

Maybe it is time for Mrs. Graves and the BCAS to concede defeat on the issue of reinstatement to the museum board and instead get on with their lives and archaeological pursuits. The issues rehashed by Mr. Whitby and Mrs. Graves are old news. Of course, if she is so unhappy with being ousted, Mrs. Graves could petition to have her name removed from the museum.

Instead of bashing past and present museum personnel, maybe your newspaper should be encouraging support and patronage of a local museum. Of course controversy increases readership, and readership increases ad revenue, which to some may be more important than objective reporting. I encourage your readers to visit the museum and judge for themselves.

Michele Titi
Hallandale Beach

A former executive director opines:
I read Bob Whitby's Graves Museum article with interest, but I regret that I was unable to give him my input. I did have a procedure -- exactly like Dick Cheney's. But any input would have been simply to affirm all that has been accomplished at the museum from its inception and the dedicated and talented staff that we presently have. I also strongly support the members of the Board of Governors, who worked with me over the past four years to create a world-class museum, especially their attorney Karl Adler.

I have found Karl Adler to be one of the most fair, honest, straightforward attorneys with whom I have ever worked. He was and would still be the friend of all those who feel the need to attack him. It was not until they began to violate the integrity of the process and system that Karl advised the board to take action that undermined their plotting and strategies. In the settlement with Ms. Graves, he was eminently fair and just. But in their losing position, I can imagine that they have felt abused, when in reality they created their own situation. To read the distortion of reality they shared with you reminds me that perception is often more important than reality.

I was amused at the strong involvement of Dr. Petuch in the story. I take nothing away from this man, who is a brilliant scientist, accomplished musician, and amazing linguist. But I howled with laughter at his opening line about not being able to get people "off their asses to make it a real museum." Any progress made in the museum was accomplished in spite of, not because of, Ed. I have a file full of memos and correspondence between me, him, and university personnel trying to get him off his posterior. The university pays him a generous stipend to work summers and give time during the rest of the year. To see him appear once in five to six months was to have to introduce him to staff.

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