Upon reading Bob Whitby's December 7 article, "Bones of Contention," I realized why New Times is not considered a reputable news source. I also realized why Bob Whitby writes for New Times and not The New York Times. It appears that neither the paper nor the author was concerned with reporting the unbiased facts of the Graves Museum story or checking the backgrounds and histories of their sources. It should have been clearly stated that these were the personal views of Mr. Whitby and this was not a news article.
First of all it should be noted that Dr. Ed Petuch is not a member of the Graves Museum staff. He is a professor at Florida Atlantic University who is paid $17,000 a year by the university to assist the museum. Thus the author should have assessed what Dr. Petuch has actually done for the museum for the past three years that has warranted this salary. Why did the reporter not question Dr. Petuch about why he has not written research grants for the museum if he is truly interested in furthering the museum's science department? Why does Dr. Petuch feel it is his job to get the museum staff "off their ass" when he cannot even motivate himself? The staff of the Graves Museum is made up of many hard-working individuals who were wrongly portrayed by a man who spends only a few days a year actually working with the museum. Did the reporter ask to see documentation about how much Dr. Petuch does for the museum? It is always easier to accuse someone else of being lazy instead of taking the initiative. It is also easier for the author to accuse hard-working people of earning "large" salaries (which are lower than the national average, by the way) than to ask someone what it is he does to earn $17,000 a year. Did the author bother to report Dr. Petuch's salary? No, of course not. He also failed to mention that, while Gypsy Graves lived in an expensive home, she barely paid her staff minimum wage.
Dr. Petuch should bring in grants and students if his main priority is the welfare of the museum's science program. Why has he not been effective in these areas? Obviously he would rather spend the museum's money instead of helping to raise it. It seems that Dr. Petuch needs to see the bigger picture of educating the public. I hate to tell you this, Dr. Petuch, but the world does not revolve around fossilized shells.
Dr. Petuch also accuses the museum of putting entertainment before science. Has he visited? The only thing to do there is learn. Parents continuously call to see if there are movies, rides, or play areas for their children. The museum can only tell them that it offers world-class artifacts and fossils. It is also trying to include more interactive exhibits to enhance the ability of children to learn (including monthly family days).
The author's opinion of Gypsy Graves is also heavily biased. On page 19 he mentions that Mrs. Graves began the museum with no experience, yet on page 23 he harps on the fact that current museum staff has none. Then he proceeds to tell us that Charles Zidar, the new interim director, has worked for the museum for the past six years as second in command to both Gypsy Graves and Robert Kelley. What exactly does he consider "museum experience"? Why is it acceptable that Mrs. Graves had none but unacceptable that Mr. Zidar has six years? Apparently Mrs. Graves believed Mr. Zidar to be a very capable person, or she would not have left the museum in his care as she traveled around the world doing her so-called "archaeology."
Speaking of archaeology, did the author bother to ask Mrs. Graves about her own ability to run a museum? Did he ask about international laws concerning the removal of artifacts from countries (the UNESCO laws)? Did he ask whether she had proper documentation for the artifacts she removed from the sites she worked on? Thanks to the hard work of staff members and volunteers after Mrs. Graves' departure, the museum is now trying to properly preserve materials in its care. The museum is also currently working with the Museum Assessment Program (MAP) so that it can become a fully accredited museum. Did Mr. Whitby question Mr. Zidar or any other staff member on his knowledge of the laws and regulations governing museums? Why did Gypsy Graves not seek accreditation during her years as director? How can he report that she is more capable of running a museum without researching the facts?
Mr. Whitby also appears clearly biased when he writes about the grand plans Gypsy Graves and her friends had for the museum. She would never have achieved these goals without proper accreditation.