Wednesday, January 11, 2006

ASU to Appalachian Cultural Museum: Bite Me

Today's Watauga Democrat brings news about the first casualty of ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock's search for a "personal legacy" ... the dissolution of the Appalachian Cultural Museum. Its artifacts and dismantled displays will be shoved into storage in the old Belk Library. As the acquisition of the Heilig-Myers store in downtown Boone was going to cost something, and clearly the Chancellor wants to invest nothing, the Heilig-Myers "fix" was never an option, obviously, but rather a cruel little feint to placate critics.

Cruel little feint Number Two? The bright announcement in today's Watauga Democrat article that Chancellor Peacock thinks it would be jolly good to break up that significant collection and spread bits and pieces of it around all over campus, like the debris from a bomb blast, so "more people can appreciate" just how disrespectful this administration is toward the very meaning of historical preservation generally and ASU's obligations to the people of these mountains specifically. It's clear that the chancellor equates the cultural museum with a species of "hillbilly merchandise" that can dress up a building entrance or a back stairwell, more or less like packaged gum displays next to a checkout counter. Plus spreading the stuff around campus is "unworkable and absurdly cost inefficient."

This administration also plainly lied to the faculty when it claimed that its proposed new nursing program would not mean cuts to other programs. The administration compounded the lie with a clumsy bait-and-switch. Originally, the museum was being evicted from University Hall for the nursing program. That line is no longer "operable." Now the story is that the museum is being evicted for a "communication disorders clinic," not the nursing program.

The first patients who should enroll themselves in the "communication disorders clinic" are the chancellor and his hit-men. According to the Watauga Democrat article, museum director Charles Watkins first learned of the Chancellor's "solution" when the Watauga Democrat reporter called him for comment. Gee. You might think the director of the museum -- not to mention the head of the search committee for new museum space -- was due a smidgen of courtesy.

Instead of courtesy this whole mountain community receives a level of high-handed disrespect for a cultural institution that goes in fact well beyond a mere "communications disorder."

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