Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Museum Manager's 'Success' Story

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Museum Manager's 'Success' Story

Article excerpt

Molly Demeulenaere's timing when she left her Sarasota museum job may not have been perfect, but it was close.

While she ran the popular hands-on science museum called G.Wiz, there was lots of talk about making the place even better thanks to donors who were funding new attractions. It isn't clear how many board members had a clue that, at the time, the museum was drowning in debt.

Under Demeulenaere's watch, which ended in 2012, things had long been going quietly downhill, but it wasn't so evident from the outside. Despite the work of many loyal volunteers, the exhibits were becoming a bit shabbier, yes. But what looked like small and easily fixable issues resulting from a down economy were actually much larger.

Big donors didn't learn until later that donations they thought were earmarked to pay for new interactive exhibits were actually being used to cover ongoing costs, and falling well short at that.

Before the size of the unpaid bills problem went public, Demeulenaere resigned. Not under an obvious cloud, however, and not with an embarrassed exit speech or a last announcement about the museum's desperate condition. She left for a nice new job with the management staff at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI.

Good timing, as I said. It seems no one at MOSI

suspected then that she was leaving behind a sinking ship in Sarasota.

Since then, she has impressed board members at MOSI. Enough so that she was just promoted to director there, at a time when that museum is facing some lesser problems. Board members say she has been doing a grand job with fundraising and inspiring the staff and so on, and so is their confident choice to run the museum.

We will see how that goes. I make no prediction, good or bad. But it is no wonder that some of G.Wiz's former donors are speaking out, and have inspired a news story that has some MOSI board members scrambling to do damage control.

The news story was mainly old stuff that some G.Wiz backers hope will not be forgotten. …

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