Approaching the end of his
second month on the job, Mark Tullos
still bubbles with enthusiasm when talking about his
role as director of the Louisiana State Museum
Calling the post a professional and personal "dream come true," he
said recently: "We've got to succeed in the biggest way because Louisiana deserves it."
The question is whether the financial and political realities he
must confront will let him do so.
Tullos, a Baton Rouge native, was named the museum system's director in December by Lt.
Gov. Jay Dardenne, becoming the fourth person to hold the job in less than five years.
After beginning work in late January, Tullos
spent much of his
time getting to know his
80 employees and the five boards of directors he
must work with, and familiarizing himself with the system's sprawling holdings: the Cabildo, Presbytere, Lower Pontalba Building, Old U.S. Mint and other historic buildings in the French Quarter; a museum near the Capitol building in Baton Rouge; museums in Patterson and Thibodaux; and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
, due to open this summer in Natchitoches.
Tullos has been a museum executive for more than 27 years, serving as director of institutions in Waco, Texas; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Alexandria, La.; Ocean Springs, Miss.; and Lufkin, Texas; before becoming director of the Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2005.
Although most of his
jobs have been at art museums, he
has worked with all types of institutions, including history and science collections.
laid out an extremely ambitious agenda of goals for his
After the immediate task of getting the Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches open, he said, he wants to turn his attention to the system's New Orleans facilities, looking for ways to use the spaces more effectively and to attract more people into them.
would like to expand the Cabildo's exhibits on Louisiana's history, which now run only through Reconstruction, to bring the story into the 20th century.
He'd like to do more on New Orleans history and the role the Mississippi River played in it.
The Mint will continue to focus on Louisiana music; plans call for spending nearly $4 million there, which Tullos
will have to raise from private donors or the state.
But the museum has had to struggle mightily to find major donors for past projects.
And at a time when the state is cutting support for healthcare and higher education and when the museum's own budget has been reduced in recent years, it remains to be seen whether Tullos' argument that paying for the Mint project would be a smart "investment in tourism" will fly with the administration or legislators in Baton Rouge.
also wants to increase promotional efforts, to ramp up digitization of the museum's collections so more of the objects will be available for viewing and study on the Internet, to establish a major endowment to fund new exhibits, to find appropriate ways to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 2015 and the city's 300th birthday in 2018.
And some of the system's buildings need expensive repairs.
He said he is confident he has a strong backer in Dardenne, who as lieutenant governor oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, of which the museum system is a part.
said, is a "passionate supporter" of the museum.
But the lieutenant governor does not determine how much money the state will give to the system each year, and in any case Dardenne may very well leave his
job in three years.
Robert Wheat, the museum's deputy director, served as acting director for two years after Rykels' departure before Tullos finally was hired.