Despite the protests of museum supporters, state officials refused yesterday to overturn the firing in April of the director of the largest African-American museum in the state.
The commission that oversees the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis was "dissatisfied over a substantial period" with the management of former director Ronald L. Sharps, wrote Patricia Payne, secretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
The 13-year-old museum, which receives $400,000 a year from the state and whose director is approved by the state housing secretary, will continue to operate despite the change in management, Payne said.
Sharps' supporters worry that the firing is the first step toward closing the museum and moving its collections to a $19 million black history museum proposed for Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Payne says those fears are unfounded and that the state plans to spend $2.8 million to expand the Annapolis museum in 2001.
"Dr. Sharps' termination in no way indicates the demise of the museum, and I remain perplexed by his supporters' insistence that this personnel action and others somehow will lead to the closing of Banneker-Douglass," she said.
Sharps, a 48-year-old Greenbelt resident, said he was surprised by the decision because he had always received good performance evaluations during his 4 1/2 years running the museum.
Sharps said he did an excellent job, increasing the museum's visibility around the state and planning the 10,000-square-foot expansion.
"We are deeply upset by this," said Joyce Black, president of the Banneker-Douglas Museum Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the museum. "We were very pleased with his performance and proud of the original exhibits that he presented."
Pub Date: 5/30/97