Unsettling spectacle

Apr 28, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

Our county museums system longs for a period of long-term stability

It is unsettling to witness the arrest and pending prosecution of former Fremont County Museum Lander director Carol Thiesse.

Many who worked with her during her troubled tenure at the Pioneer Museum found that process difficult, and there can be no question that her employment there was a significant part of ongoing difficulties with the county museum's system in recent years.

Her alleged theft of property that belongs rightfully to the citizens of Fremont County forms the basis for what promises to be intriguing piece of judicial proceeding in our county. If there has ever been in a case like this before, it is hard to remember when.

Fremont County now has a new, single, overriding director of its museums system. The switch to that form of management this year from the previous system in which each of the three county museums had its own, more or less autonomous director, clearly is an outgrowth in part from the problems encountered during Thiesse's leadership of the Pioneer Museum, but it is not the only reason. The retirement of the Riverton Museum's longtime director is a factor as well, as are nagging concerns at the county museum in Dubois.

It could be argued either that the prosecution of the former Lander director for theft of property, both physical and intellectual, is exactly what the struggling museums system does not need right now, or that this is precisely what is needed in order to demonstrate a new climate of, and commitment to, more rigorous administration of the museums.

Carol Thiesse is not guilty in the eyes of the law and society until proven otherwise. But the county's prosecuting authorities believe she committed a crime -- a felony, in fact. The prosecution of the case most certainly sets a new tone for how the county museums system might operate in the future, a future in which nothing would be more welcome a prolonged period of administrative stability.

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