Westport Museum Posts Statement

Eagle-eyed “06880” reader Amy Bauer has discovered a statement from Westport Museum for History & Culture board chair Sara Krasne. In it, she addresses the controversy following the renaming of the Sheffer Gallery, after receiving a large donation from an estate.

Krasne’s statement — under the heading “Statement From Board Chair” — appears far down on the home page of the museum’s website, underneath information on upcoming events. She says:

I asked Ann Sheffer if this statement accurately represented her conversation with Krasne. Ann said:

Although I appreciate the apology from Sara about not contacting me personally before issuing the press release about removing my parents’ names from the WHS exhibit hall, our conversation in no way clarified what the Historical Society plans to do to rectify the situation.

I have also had a conversation with Dick Orenstein, the trustee of the Daniel Offutt estate. We had a very productive discussion about responsibility to donors both historic and current, and I am awaiting his report after he has had a chance to talk with Historical Society board members.

Unfortunately, there are a number of other issues regarding recent policies that should be addressed as well. I don’t feel that there is yet any acknowledgement of this, or openness to discussion within the affected parties and the community at large.


24 responses to “Westport Museum Posts Statement

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    “The board” sounds very self satisfied as if that was all that mattered. What is it going to take to get through to these people?

  2. In looking through their website late night, it appears that the Chairperson of the Board of Directors (Sara Krasne, who wrote the above letter posted on their homepage) is also listed as a staff member in charge of the Archives; in other places, she is listed as the Archives Manager. Doesn’t this mean that Ms. Krasne is therefore a direct employee of the WMHS’s Executive Director, Ramin Ganeshram – whose own employment as ED is dependent upon Ms. Krasne as Chairperson of the Board? This would appear to be quite the conflict of interest – or at the very least an entanglement of interests that raises many questions. I believe that some states explicitly prohibit this sort of employment conflict for nonprofit boards and wonder what the nonprofit lawyers in CT would advise here.

    Good to hear that Ms. Sheffer had a productive conversation with Mr. Orenstein. I’m quite sure that Mr. Offutt III never would have wanted his generosity to have been used by Westport nonprofits to divide the community that they proffer to serve.

    • Dorothy Broadman

      I agree, that is a serious problem if Ms. Krasne is paid staff and Board Chair. Is she paid? If she’s a Board volunteer, that may not be unusual.

  3. re the comment by Jen Greely about roles at the WHS, Sara Krasne is also listed in media reports as having assisted Ramin Ganeshram in her extensive project to research George Washington’s cook. She appears to be both Board chair and part of Ramin’s staff.

  4. Double speak, gobble – gook , nonsense. Or , a real CYA statement that essentially said nothing about the relevant issue of destroying the WHS as founded.

  5. This reads like an airbrushed non-apology apology that could have been written by EquityOne’s PR shop – except that the latter would have faked the sincerity better and salted it with things like “we missed the mark…”
    In any event, I’m not sure how the whole “connecting us all” portion of the new strategic vision is working out, but I do have a question: why is the (young) age of the new WHS board chair relevant? I ask mostly because I get the vague impression that a portion of this controversy may have involved putting all the old people, together with their icky stuff and unfashionable ideas, on an iceburg in the Saugatuck River.

  6. I’ve always enjoyed our Historical Society and am finding this story both irksome and impossible to follow. I actually don’t want to follow it – I shouldn’t have to. There are too many other things to worry about.

    It seems like a sign of our times that something as seemingly non-controversial as a small local museum should be the source of angry postings and rumors about behind-the-scenes machinations. Has there been a hostile takeover? It sounds as though we have our own little deep state here in town with designs on our well-being.

  7. As always, you can never keep all of the people happy all of the time. Whatever happened, it happened. Perhaps a better process could have been executed and the apology has been issued. We can all lament the comprehensiveness of the apology, etc. but to what to what aim? Like most non-profits, funding is critical and one cannot fault the society for accepting new $ to maintain and enhance the society. I do believe more deference to the past and past donors was required, but again, the horse has left the barn. Hopefully, people can accept what’s been published and, more importantly, go engage with the society, enjoy its exhibits and mission, and perhaps make a small donation along the way.

  8. How nice that Sara identifies herself as the “youngest ” to fill the role as Chairman of this Board. And what, if anything, does that statement have to do with the ongoing dialogue??

  9. Smart money would be on Krasne, as an employee of Ganeshram, being charged with taking the Society from a small town repository of that small town’s history, to a larger, more self aggrandizing venue that will more fully
    recognize Genehram’s self appointed, national importance.

    • So Krazne, in her role as an unpaid staffer, reports to Executive Director Ganeshram. And Ganeshram reports to Krasne in her role as Board Chair?
      That’s not a crime of course, but it’s a somewhat questionable practice.


  11. re; response by board chair: BLAH, BLAH AND MORE BLAH. Still does not make the situation any better. Badly done and yet to be resolved

  12. Dick Orenstein is a problem solver and I’m confident he will be able to resolve the issue of the Sheffer wing. Unfortunately, the underlying problem with the new direction of the WHS may be another story altogether, requiring oversight and attention from Westport town management and the people who have supported it for decades.

  13. David "Jonesy" Joned

    Eric, right on the money.
    How many times did Sara say “I” and she used the word “Strategic” like she knows what it means. Finally…..Sara you have grammar issues .
    Don’t make me drive down there! SHS 71′

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      I’m still not getting any sense of what motivated the “overhaul.” I studied history in college and have always loved museums. But the WHS which essentially was an archive and a “museum” are not the same thing. It would be like shutting down the Library of Congress and merging it into the Smithsonian and then saying the library was off limits except for a $40/hr fee. The WHS always seemed to do pretty well in the hands of its Westporter patrons. I have a number of its sponsored volumes on my shelf. All of them I think. All I can see in the WMCH is ambition on the part of its new leadership.

  14. A letter and an email? The first thing I thought she would have done was pickup the phone and made a personal call. Sad testament to our times and her that she didn’t even think of it. If fund raising is so important she is doing a great job of discouraging people to donate.

  15. Andrew Colabella

    The board does not reflect the values of what historians are charged to do. To protect the originality of historic artifacts and stories, to bring the past to today’s public eye, and preserve the unique work of former westporters.

    The name change is ridiculous. The former board who were comprised of people charged with their natural love for this town to further bring the past to The surface, now gone or removed quietly.

    And finally, the lack of communication between donors to sell off their names to the highest bidder and even selling artifacts, historic pieces and possessions left to the WHS to keep and display.

    The majority of westporters will not stand to let and/or see our town have its history sold off for profit. I ran for RTM to protect the town I was born in and keep its originality to remind those who have been here forever of the wonderful past, but welcome new people to enjoy what we’ve lived in and with since the start. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

    Credibility, trust and the history is now broken. Bring it back to its originality, and step down.

  16. I can understand wanting recognition for your largesse, and comfort in the fact that your legacy will outlive you. But Daniel Offutt, he died, he’s gone. It’s wonderful that his charitable trust continues to do good work, but why do they need his name on things? Who does that serve? If they think the WHS is a worthy cause, they should donate and move on to their next charitable endeavor. But they clearly made this a string attached to the money — it had to have a deceased man’s name on whatever room they helped renovate, or no funds would be forthcoming. How weird.

    • Happens every day. Farkas Hall at Harvard comes to mind. “Family” egos larger than life.

    • … I am also reminded of a living law school benefactor, who demanded not only that the school be named after him but that all diplomas carry his name.

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