Officials: Plan to hire one director for museums preliminary

Jul 1, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Fremont County Museums Board members say a proposal to hire a single director for the Riverton, Lander and Dubois museums is still early in the planning stages, but they offered assurances that each museum would retain its independence even if the plan goes through.

Jerry Kintzler of Riverton raised a concern during the board's June meeting, saying it would be best if each museum retained its own director.

"We didn't get very far" in explaining the plan, said board chairman Tom Duncan. "It's too nebulous."

He said Fremont County Com-missioners, who must approve the museums budget, have asked the museums board to "lay out all the possibilities" on how the administrative change might work.

Director vs. curator

"In theory there would be one director that would oversee the administrative operation of the three museums," Duncan said.

"They would not be down there telling you how to do things or where things should go," board member Carol Chidsey added.

"They would then have more time, probably, to do some fundraising. They would be able to give that director that's there more time to be working on the ground."

They also said that the idea was for one director not a curator. A curator usually is in charge of the care, protection and acceptance of the artifacts in a museum, keeps track of the inventory, and educates the other employees.

"The director would oversee them. There's a big difference between a director and a curator," Duncan said.

Local input

Kintzler said he decided to speak to the board because many people contacted him and encouraged him to address the topic. Kintzler was the first curator of the Riverton museum and later served on the Fremont County Museums Board.

"In order for your museums to flourish and grow and stay popular in your community, you need to have that local input, that local person in charge," Kintzler said. "There are qualified people in each community, so don't sell them short by changing things that are working."

County Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she and commissioner Larry Allen are supportive of reorganizing the system.

"I'm not convinced that it is working, so I think it's a perfect time to look for change," Whiteman said, adding that defining the exact duties and job titles assigned would be crucial for a functioning team.

Duncan assured Kintzler that each museum would maintain its individuality and uniqueness, that artifacts would remain in the museum where they belong, and they would not be misplaced.

"We will retain our autonomy," Duncan said. "That director would have something to do with a vision statement for all three museums."

Duncan confirmed that it would be a salaried position, but Kintzler suggested that more employees be hired instead to work in the museums.

The commissioner who serves as the liaison to the museums board, Stephanie Kessler said, "I think this discussion has to be driven first at what are the values and the concerns and the things that we want, and then let's make sure that the structure meets those needs.

"I have concern about administrative oversight, and the commission does, too," she added.

The financial consultant to the board, David Raynolds, said a single director could help the museum from an outsider's perspective, help "show off" the museums, and attract visitors.

The board has been in the process of interviewing for the vacant director position at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, but that process might be postponed until after the museums board comes back to county commission with ideas on reorganization in the staff. Three individuals were being considered for the position in Lander.

"At this point we're still in the very, very beginnings of even discussing of what this is going to do," Duncan told Kintzler. "That's one of several proposals. We need to look at some other systems."

Board members encouraged residents to give feedback on the topic.

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