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A Continuing Cover-Up? The Diorama Destruction Debacle Continues

Those readers who have been following this story are advised to check the earlier posts offered here and here and here, for they have been updated as the story has evolved.  Highlights include the decision of the moderator of the TMFM board to shut down discussion on that board, as well as what some might characterize as stonewalling on the part of Jeff Hunt’s superiors.  The high school teacher who supervised the project, Glen Frakes, has now said that he won’t accept return of the diorama unless charges are pressed against Mr. Hunt.  This isn’t getting any better, folks.

The failure of the people who manage the Texas Military Forces Museum to resolve this issue in a timely fashion, as well as the contradictory tales told by Mr. Hunt to explain his decision making, explain how this sad affair has snowballed.  Questions have been raised about Hunt’s employment record, including the reasons for a previous termination at another museum, and others have questioned other actions he has undertaken.  At the same time, it is evident that there is a clash of cultures at the museum itself, as many people who were once affiliated with it in one way or another are furious with what’s going on. 

Let’s be clear here: this issue has much more about the way in which people do things, as opposed to a debate over the accuracy of historical displays.  As the students drew some of their information from Mr. Hunt’s own book, Hunt unwittingly (if, it seems, characteristically) indicts his own competence when he complains about the inaccuracies in the diorama, many of which seem to be grounded in what others might conclude were matters of opinion rather than fact. 

However, the real shame here remains that high school students spent a great deal of time on a project, only to see their handiwork treated in a cavalier manner by a museum director who can’t seem to get his story straight as to why he acted as he did.  That his superiors are in no hurry to resolve this situation speaks volumes about their (in)competence and suggests their indifference.  Anyone can derive all sorts of lessons from this incident, which may well become a classic case study in how not to run a museum. 

The result has been a different sort of education for those high schoolers than they desired or deserved.  We work hard to get kids interested in history: anyone who believes in history education at the K-12 level should be dismayed (to put it kindly) at what’s happened here.

As for diorama destruction, I will soon post my impressions about a book that recounts the fate of another diorama that may be of interest, especially when you learn of the identity of one of the principals … the Duke of Wellington.     

Comments (3) to “A Continuing Cover-Up? The Diorama Destruction Debacle Continues”

  1. To fill in a few facts: In an interview with Channel 7 that aired last week, Mr. Hunt told the interviewer that between the time the Palmetto Ranch diorama was commissioned and it was delivered, the Museum developed a Master Plan. According to the Master Plan, Hunt said, the diorama was unsuitable. The facts are, however, that the diorama was commissioned several years ago and delivered during the week of August 20th, 2007. The Museum Master Planning process, however, did not begin until after Mr. Hunt assumed the directorship in early October 2007.

    As evidence of that, Mr. Hunt told the January 18th annual membership meeting that the command group had asked for a Master Plan after he took over the Director’s post in early October. During the January 18th meeting, Colonel Morreale also told the audience that the Guard had no funding in place for most of the physical plant changes (approximately $2.6 million) and none of the exhibit changes (roughly $2.3 million). Moreover, the Master Plan wasn’t even posted for public review on the Museum’s website until February 5, 2008.

    Regarding statements of the Public Information Officer – It is clearly disingenuous to say on the one hand that the work was rejected because it was inaccurate, yet to say in the next breath that the public shouldn’t worry, because most of the materials will be reused in other projects. Obviously, the figures were carefully and specifically crafted to represent the unique Battle of Palmetto Ranch. How can they be easily transferred for use to another project without risking the historical inaccuracy that Mr. Hunt derided?

    Furthermore, the public information office at other times justified the action by saying that the diorama was too big for the space. A quick check of the facts, however, would reveal that the Museum’s main gallery was reconfigured specifically to display the diorama. Moreover, that reconfiguration was done with substantial input from Mr. Hunt who happened to be spending some time at the Museum during late August. (Although he was never a volunteer or financial supporter of the Museum, to the best of my knowledge, his living history group used Museum/Camp Mabry facilities, thus his presence at the Museum at times).

    Readers need to know as well that members of the Museum foundation have tried to get attention to this matter. But the command group of the Texas National Guard has announced its intention to remake the board (although how they think they can take over a 501(c)3, in opposition to many of the members of that entity, is baffling to me). As a result, the annual membership meeting – originally scheduled for October – was cancelled. At this point, the Board is in limbo.



    Would this be the diorama you are alluding to?

  3. Ah … this is Brooks. Yes.