Tennessee State Museum

Tennessee State Museum gets reaccredited, wins award for food exhibition

The Tennessee State Museum has been awarded a renewed accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. The facility also won an award from the American Association for State and Local History for an exhibition titled “Let’s Eat! The Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food.”

Here’s the  release from the museum,

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – May 20, 2020 – The Tennessee State Museum has received prestigious recognition from two major national museum organizations. The Museum has been re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition signifying excellence afforded the nation’s museums. In addition, the Museum is a recipient of an Award of Excellence from The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for its 2019-20 exhibition, Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 75th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

“Recognition like this on the national level is an achievement that the Museum and the people of Tennessee can be extremely proud of,” said Ashley Howell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum. “It indicates that we are operating at the highest level in our service to our community and visitors, and in the presentation of our exhibitions and programs. The museum continues to serve through digital programming during our current closure.”

Originally accredited in 2003, the Tennessee State Museum’s re-accreditation comes more than a year-and-a-half after the Museum opened in its new location at Rosa L. Parks Blvd and Jefferson St, at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville. From October, 2018 through February, 2020, some 275,439 visitors came to the Museum and Military Branch of the Museum, including 56,257 students and adults through field trips and group tours. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Museum opened and closed four temporary exhibitions in that time, including Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food. It is readying its latest, Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote, for when the Museum reopens to the public. Complementing its exhibitions, it has hosted dozens of events, lectures, panel discussions and film screenings. Through its statewide education outreach, the Museum offers schools and cultural organizations throughout the state access to its Traveling Trunks program and traveling exhibitions. In its first year in its new location, 55,307 students were served through the Traveling Trunks program.

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TN State Museum offering commemorative stones – at $1,000 to $25,000 — in fundraising effort

Commemorative stones are being sold this month for placement on a pathway leading to the new Tennessee State Museum at $1,000 to $25,000 each — the bigger the donation, the bigger the stone. The buyer/donor can choose a name with an inscription of up to 20 characters.

An AP brief on the move says almost $30 million has been raised for the new museum so far. The goal is $40 million in private donations to go with $120 million in state funding for the new museum, scheduled to open in October.

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Bill would move N.B. Forrest bust to state museum

Rep. Brenda Gilmore, former chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, has filed a bill that would move a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state capitol lobby to the new Tennessee State Museum.

Under current state law, the Capitol Commission must approve any such move – and the panel voted 7-5 in September to leave the Forrest bust in place. HB1466 specifically makes the Forrest bust an exception to that general rule and further directs that it be relocated to the new museum, now under construction.

There’s no listed Senate sponsor yet for the bill, pre-filed for consideration in the legislative session that begins next month.

Note: Previous post on the commission vote is HERE; a post with a bit of bust history HERE.

State museum chairman says comptroller review vindicates new leadership efforts to resolve past troubles

A “limited review” of Tennessee State Museum operations finds past problems – ranging from missing booze to nepotism and other conflicts of interest — are now being addressed and Thomas Smith, chairman of the board that oversees museum operations, tells The Tennessean he sees the report as a vindication of new leadership.

“I believe that this letter from the comptroller’s office is excellent,” Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday.

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Private donations to new state museum at $25M (with $40M goal)

News release from Tennessee State Museum

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee State Museum today announced that fundraising efforts for the new museum have progressed well, with more than $25 million committed by corporations, foundations and individuals statewide during the campaign’s initial “silent phase.

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State museum commission repeals controversial code of conduct

The Douglas Henry State Museum Commission voted Monday to repeal controversial policy changes adopted in July that some state legislators saw as an attempt to muzzle critics, reports the Nashville Post.

The policies included a “code of conduct” that prevented commission members from maligning the Tennessee State Museum or its staff and required notification before a member spoke to the press. It also outlined a process to force the resignation of a commissioner who didn’t abide by the policies — something at odds with the state law that specifies how commissioners are appointed.

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Museum retreats from new code of ethics in face of legislator attacks

The chairman of the Tennessee State Museum’s governing board pledged that the panel would reconsider its controversial “code of ethics” in the face of round of strong criticism from state legislators at a hearing Tuesday.

“Do you want to take the legislature on?” asked Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, addressing Thomas Smith, chairman of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission at the outset of a hearing.

An hour and a half later, Smith declared, “It is not our intent to take on the Legislature… Clearly we are going to go back and evaluate all of these items.”

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Harwell appoints PAC treasurer to TN State Museum governing board

House Speaker Beth Harwell has reappointed Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel to the governing board of the Tennessee State Museum, but is giving her own seat on the panel to Tina Hodges, CEO of Nashville-based Advance Financial.

Harwell had previously appointed herself to a four-year term on the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission that officially expired June 30, but she continued to serve through the panel’s July 3 meeting, as allowed under relevant rules allowing an appointee to stay aboard until a successor is appointed, said Kara Owen, spokeswoman to the speaker in response to email inquiries.

Subsequently, Owen said, Harwell appointed Hodges, who already serves – by appointment of Gov. Bill Haslam – on the board of directors for Volunteer Tennessee, a group that has the declared mission of promoting “volunteerism and community service” by Tennesseans. She is currently listed as vice chairman.

Hodges also serves as treasurer of Advance PAC, a political action committee operated by Advance Financial. A check of the Registry of Campaign Finance website for 2015 and 2016 shows Advance PAC giving Harwell’s reelection campaign for her state House seat $10,000 and it also donated $8,000 to the leadership PAC operated by Harwell.

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Bell, Faison question validity of new state museum code of conduct

Chairmen of General Assembly’s Joint Government Operations Rule Review Committee are questioning the legality of the new operating policies adopted by the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission last week (including a controversial new ‘code of conduct,’ reports the Nashville Post.

State Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), the chairs of the committee, sent a letter to DHSMC chair Tom Smith and museum executive director Ashley Howell on Tuesday stating that the changes in the operating policies — including the controversial new code of conduct that prevents board members from disparaging the museum — should have been adopted in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, as it is spelled out in state law.

… “In light of the statutory authority, and in accordance with the past practices of the Joint Government Operations Rule Review Committee, we strongly believe that the attached operating policies clearly meet the definition of a rule, and that those policies must be promulgates in accordance with the UAPA.”

(Note: Museum officials contend the new policy is an operating procedure and thus not a “rule,” which is subject to requirements of the UAPA, including advance notice, a public hearing, etc.)

In an interview, Bell said that he thinks the language of the enacting clause creating the DHSMC requires anything relating to the governance of the agency should fall under the UAPA.

“I have issues with the substance of the policies as well, and I know other legislators have been commenting about that,” Bell said. “But I’m very concerned with the process here, which I do not think was followed correctly.”

The new code of conduct seems designed to silence board member Victor Ashe, a former legislator and Knoxville mayor who has been a recent critic of several missteps of the board. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally criticized it last week, expressing “serious concerns.” However, DHSMC members and legislators House Speaker Beth Harwell, now a gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) and Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) all voted in support of the policy changes.

“[Commissioners] are free to talk to anyone they want to talk to and say anything they want to say. That’s still the case,” said Harwell after the meeting.

Some suggested TN political junkie weekend reading

The Douglas Henry State Museum Commission’s efforts to block Victor Ashe, or any other board member, from making negative comments about museum operations have generated a round of negative comments about museum operations.  Here’s a sampler, along with other articles not involving Ashe or the museum appearing around the state during the past few days:

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