Museum outrage vented: Johnson before BOMA

A Town of Farragut founder who serves as a Farragut Museum volunteer expressed his frustration with recent reorganization efforts in the museum, which came during a citizen forum at Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s meeting Thursday, April 27.

“We were told the museum was closing in a few weeks for remodeling of the building,” Eric Johnson said. “It’s actually several months away.”

“The Farragut Museum was started by Mary Nell McFee, (the late Mayor) Bob (Leonard) and Marie Leonard and the Fords – Eddy was our second mayor — and many others over 40 years ago,” he added. “And today, it has been destroyed.

“The Civil War display from a battle fought and where soldiers died where we meet tonight is gone. The country store that represented several community stores from years ago is gone.

Giving still more specific examples, “The large bronze bust of Admiral Farragut — that was at the entrance to the museum and pointed out it was a museum — is gone, and so are many other items,” Johnson said. “I was also told that Margaret Angel’s paintings of old, local historical landmarks are next.

“Several people had items on long-term loan and possibly permanent display were told to pick up their items,” he added. “Several said they should remain at the museum, but they were told they had to come get them.

“The museum volunteers received two e-mails from a part-time Farragut employee (historic resources coordinator Jesse Williams) with his legal opinions about the museum and operation of the museum. He also warned about their responsibilities for items hidden behind a new curtain he installed at the entrance.

According to Johnson, “None of the happenings were discussed with the Museum Committee; none of them were approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen,” he said. “The Museum Committee met this week, and they were told the museum would be set up in a certain manner in the future, and that’s the way it was.

Moreover, “The Board of Mayor and Aldermen representative on the committee was not there,” he said. “…I would suggest if nobody on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen wants to serve on the Museum Committee, maybe you should find somebody outside who is willing to serve on the committee and report to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on regular basis.

Frank Galbraith, a lifelong resident, former Farragut school teacher, museum volunteer, presenter of the annual Pearl Harbor and Famous Tennessean programs and presenter of the Introduction of Farragut, did not attend the Board meeting.

“He said he was too upset to come here, but his opinion is exactly as mine,” Johnson said.

“We apologized to the Museum Committee the other day,” Town administrator David Smoak replied after Johnson spoke. “There’s been a lot of miscommunication due to an e-mail exchange that unfortunately did not go out, even though we thought it did.

Correcting the issues

“Because of that, there was some certain consternation between the Museum Committee seeing a lot of changes going on and not hearing what was happening beforehand, but I think we had a good meeting with the Museum Committee,” Smoak added.

“... The committee is going to work on getting a subcommittee together during the closing period to work on what the museum’s going to look like when we come back after the Town Hall re-opens, whenever that is — next year some time.”

“There are definitely some challenges, but we want to get the museum cleaned up and stored away because it does take a long time to get all those artifacts put away and stored properly,” Smoak said. “There’s plenty of work to do, plenty documents and artifacts to make sure we have a way to properly store during that time, and a lot of things to plan for next year.

“I feel confident that we’ll get to this bump in the road and will have a great museum going forward,” he said.