Debate Over How Tennessee State Museum Is Run

Local News

The Tennessee State Museum is normally a quiet place to learn about history, but in recent months there’s sometimes loud debate about how its run.

A very specific issue even drew a legislative hearing this past week from a one of the committees holding the museum’s purse strings. 

In a hearing this past week, state lawmakers made clear from the outset they have a say in the way things at the state museum, which is just across the street from the capitol.

“Committee, I want you to understand that over the last several years, the state of Tennessee has appropriated over $140-million to the museum,” says Rep. Jeremy Faison.

With that established, a joint committee government operations committee wanted to hear about a controversial new code of conduct for the governing commission of the state museum, which museum officials said was standard for other such facilities.

Former Knoxville mayor, ambassador to Poland and museum commission member Victor Ashe recoiled at the idea of signing such a code of conduct, which some characterized as a way to muzzle his criticism about the way the museum is run.

Ashe says such a code of conduct may be fine for private museum, not public ones.

“This is a public body. When they admonish you in private, you can’t do that in private. The sunshine law covers this. You will have to admonish in public and give a reason as it should be,” says Ashe.

After nearly two hours, the chair of the commission indicated the code of conduct would be revisited. And while nothing decided for sure, there’s no doubt that lawmakers have made it clear they will be keeping an eye on the museum.

Museum officials say a code of conduct for board members is considered a requirement for re-accrediting the facility.

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