Seven trustees of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York have resigned following the ousting of director Caroline Baumann just over two weeks ago. Baumann, who oversaw a $91 million renovation of the museum's Carnegie Mansion building, resigned on Feb. 7 after heading the museum since 2013.
Baumann was forced out in the wake of the Smithsonian inspector general's findings that she had violated conflict-of-interest rules in connection with her September 2018 wedding, as outlined in this report. An anonymous complaint launched the investigation which swirled around Baumann's $750 wedding dress, a gifted gala ticket, venue usage and a contractor gig at the Cooper Hewitt, a partly federally-funded institution.
Since the resignation, reports in Vanity Fair and the New York Times offer another version of events that paint a strikingly different picture than the federal investigator's report which she, and her supporters, contend was clouded by sexism.
“The agent at the center of this used derogatory, sexist language,” Baumann said. “He was overtly discriminatory to me and to others, and produced a sham report.”
The case recalls the bureaucratic boondoggle surrounding Anna Coliva, the highly respected director of Rome's prestigious Galleria Borghese, who was suddenly suspended without pay and before a trial following an anonymous complaint about her gym use during work hours.
Coliva was reinstated by the Italian Ministry of Culture and exonerated for the alleged "absenteeism" after making her case, along with an international outcry and online petition that garnered thousands of signatures. She resumed her position last fall.