Employees blame museum execs for decay of Imelda Marcos gowns, shoesBy Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Curators and employees of the National Museum have pointed to their top two executives as the ones to blame for the decay of the clothes and shoe collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro dated September 28, 2012, 16 concerned National Museum curators, senior staff and personnel said museum director Jeremy Barns and his deputy, Ana Labrador, displayed “gross neglect and incompetence” when they initiated the transfer of Mrs. Marcos’ collection from Malacañang Museum to the National Museum two years ago—without following “basic, standard museum best practice and procedure.”
According to the Museum personnel, among them scientist Eusebio Dizon III, curator at the archeology division, the Marcos collection was transferred to the Museum “without their knowledge” and therefore proper inspection and conservation measures could not be put in place.
“Their failure to be transparent about the entire matter with the National Museum curators, conservators and employees and their gross neglect in the handling and storing of the transferred materials…are all indicative of the gross neglect and incompetence in the present National Museum top management.” the group charged in their letter.
The National Museum is an attached agency of the DepEd. The Inquirer could not immediately contact the two top officials for comment.
Museum officials earlier told The Associated Press that termites, flood water and neglect damaged part of Marcos’ collection of at least 1,220 pairs of shoes and other items while they were stored from 1986 to 2010 at Malacañang Palace and later the National Museum in Manila.
More than 150 cartons of clothes, accessories and shoes were transferred to the National Museum for safekeeping two years ago from the Palace. The boxes were stored in a padlocked room on the fourth floor of the Old Legislative Building that was inundated by heavy rains last August because of a leak in the ceiling, museum curators said.
“It is grossly unfair that (the acts of) two newly appointed directors to the National Museum, namely, Mr. Jeremy Barns and Ms Ana Labrador, by initiating the transfer of the Imelda Marcos dress and shoe (collection)… without following basic standard museum best practice and procedure should result in tarnishing the name, stature and good standing of this cultural institution,” the employees said in their letter.
They claimed that the Imelda collection was transferred to the National Museum “without their knowledge.” They said the matter just came up during one senior staff meeting because the room were the collection was stored was needed for a meeting.
According to them, the proper course of action by Barns, upon the arrival of the collection, would have been to delegate the materials to the Anthropology Division, which is in charge of the textiles in the National Museum, and to the Chemistry and Conservation Laboratory staff who are the experts in appraising the conditions of materials. “If this was done at the time of their transfer, first-aid conservation may have been done,” they said.
The items could have been brought to the National Historical Commission which has an adequately staffed Conservation Laboratory for centuries-old historical clothing materials,” the museum curators and conservators added.
Why were the boxes, ’inventoried and sealed, directly taken to a room when a museum’s basic standard best practice would have been to inventory and inspect transferred items individually and a condition report on each item be done and recorded?” they asked.