Fears persist about future of museum

State renovation plan for Banneker-Douglass doesn't halt closing talk

May 14, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Two weeks after the state awarded a contract to begin designing and planning a 10,000-square-foot expansion of the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, controversy continues to swirl over operation of the 16-year-old repository.

Errol E. Brown Sr., president of the Banneker-Douglass Museum Foundation, a volunteer fund-raising group for the museum, said he is not convinced that the museum's future is solid and fears that the state may close it.

Brown is asking to meet with Gov. Parris N. Glendening to talk about problems foundation members have had with the state Commission on African-American History and Culture, which runs the museum, and the Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the commission.

"We want to ask the governor to address the Banneker-Douglass Museum plight," he said. "What makes us think the museum is going to be closed is they have stripped it. There is nothing to see."

The state Board of Public Works recently awarded a $454,000 contract to a Baltimore architectural firm to plan the addition that would more than double the museum's size.

The expansion would provide meeting space for the public, administrative space for staffers, and allow the museum to house permanent exhibits on prominent African-Americans, a state official said.

The $3.8 million project includes renovation to the building and construction of a three-floor addition to the Franklin Street museum.

The expansion is scheduled to begin next year and will be completed in 2002, officials said.

The announcement was made after years of complaints from foundation members that the state intended to close the museum.

"There was never any effort for anyone to shut the museum down," said Carroll H. Hynson Jr., who heads the state Commission on African-American History and Culture. "Now no one can say we're going to close."

But Brown disagrees. In the past several years, internal issues such as personnel changes have become public fights between the state commission and the foundation.

"Don't tell me you're going to put up the building and you're stripping the museum the whole time and you've been negligent to the collections all along," Brown said.

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