To some, Doug King is a genius who turned the Saint Louis Science Center from a offbeat minor attraction to a major museum with 1.2 million annual visitors and $15 million in yearly revenue. But to others, he's a sneak who secretly purged company files and may know what happened to 36 Native American artifacts that were lent to the center in the '70s, but never returned.
The case involving the missing artifacts is detailed in a feature article by Aimee Levitt, reporter at fellow Village Voice Media-owned paper Riverfront Times and is worth reading every word.
It involves the Airis family who lent the St. Louis Science Center a 47-piece set of valuable and unique Native American artifacts, including moccasins, a peace pipe and an eagle feather headdress.
Decades later, when the family asked for the items back, only 11 of the artifacts could be found. Records were a mess, excuses were flimsy and the new director, Doug King, led the family on a drawn out run-around that led to a lawsuit and impassioned calls by the Airis family for King's firing.
Jennifer Silverberg Kevin Airis shows off an eagle feather headdress, one of the few items he says the St. Louis Science Center returned to him
Seattle Weeklyspoke with Kevin Airis on Monday. He maintains that King should never be employed by a museum again and says he is filing a complaint with the American Association of Museums this week, asking that the U-Dub grad be reprimanded by the group.
"Doug King shouldn't be let anywhere near a museum," says Airis. "He'll do the same thing to your museum in Seattle."
King wasn't immediately available for comment.
But whatever his failings with the Airis' family heirlooms--substantiated as Levitt's reporting shows that they are--the Museum of Flight seems to see something in him. Kevin Callaghan, chairman of the museum's board of trustees released a statement citing his tenure in St. Louis as a principal reason for his hiring, saying:
"... his ties to the Northwest and his track record with the Saint Louis Science Center, sets the stage for our next exciting chapter at The Museum of Flight in Seattle."
As long as no donated airplanes go missing on King's watch, Callaghan's trust will go down as well-placed.