The University of Connecticut’s relocation of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History violates the law that established it, Senate Bill 341 (Public Act 85-563). This act created the museum so that it would prepare exhibits and programs to educate visitors about Connecticut’s natural history. The law does not designate a specific building, but it establishes that its board of directors is responsible for planning and establishing the museum. The co-chair of this board, Natalie Munro, revealed that it was not the board of directors who made the decision, but UConn itself. The university’s decision to move the museum from its building on Hillside Road to part of the Office of Public Engagement violated the law by infringing upon the power of the board of directors and removing the museum’s physical location. It also violated those who have donated money for the betterment of the museum as it was utilized in the expansion of its building.
The museum now exists as an institution without a physical location since its previous location was recently transformed into the CLAS Academic Services Center. This is problematic because the physical location of the museum is necessary to its established goals of creating both exhibits and programs for the public. University spokesman Tom Breen defended the university’s actions by stating that the museum fits well within the Office of Public Engagement because much of its work involves community outreach and education. Yet, an exam is more than the programs it offers. It needs a building to hold its exhibits and offer its programs.
The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History was located in the building on Hillside Road for 16 years. During its time there, the building underwent several renovations in order to serve its role as a museum. The museum’s supporters donated about half of the funds for the renovations, about $500,000 which included lighting, displays and classrooms for the building. The CLAS Academic Services Center has no use for these special renovations, as it was completed less than a decade ago. Even more heinous is the fact that these renovations no longer serve the museum, which is unfair to those who donated their money specifically for that purpose.
The university has an obligation to right the wrong it made in its decision to relocate the museum. Not only did it break the law that established the museum, but it also disrespected those who had provided monetary support. The university owes these supporters and the state either its return to its Hillside road location or a new site that is equipped with the same functions provided in the Hillside Road location’s recent renovations.