UPDATED: Community Concerned As Coral Gables Museum To Permanently Close Exhibit On Coral Gables History

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]

Update

The City Commission will be discussing this issue at the September 13th City Commission meeting at a time certain of 2:00PM. The item was added to the agenda by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson.

Original Story

If one is seeking to find information on Coral Gables history, there is only one place to find it, the Coral Gables Museum.

Since 2011, the Museum has housed a permanent exhibit titled, Creating the Dream; George E. Merrick and his Vision for Coral Gables. Now, the Museum has announced it will be closing the exhibit on October 1st.

In a statement on a press release that was forwarded to Gables Insider by a resident, Executive Director Elvis Fuentes stated that, “we are taking a painful yet necessary step. This exhibition is one of the finest intellectual products of beloved historian Arva Moore Parks, and it is a privilege that we can still see it after eleven years. However, we need to do what is best for the preservation of the museum’s holdings. We are first and foremost caretakers of the treasures in our collection. It is not advisable to have objects on view for such a long period of time without risking them getting deteriorated. We will assess the state of the objects that have been on view for over a decade, so we can determine what needs to be treated or restored. We are aware of the tremendous importance of this exhibition to the community, which is why we are documenting it and translating it into a digital 360-degree tour that will be accessible online and in the museum after we complete the much-needed renovation of the galleries.”

But members of the community who have reached out to Gables Insider are concerned that this is the first step in a transformation from a Museum that primarily focuses on Coral Gables History, to one that primarily focuses on art.

“It is unclear to me whether the artifacts will ever be exhibited once again after the assessment or whether the exhibit will remain digital,” stated one member of the community in a call with Gables Insider.

The press release explains that, “the Permanent Collection Galleries will close for renovations on October 1st, and will partially reopen with the exhibition, Mediterranean Architecture of Coral Gables, on October 7th.” This will be in the form of sketches by University of Miami students, from 2015, of buildings the Museum has determined to be Mediterranean.

Calls to Fuentes for further clarification were unanswered.

You can watch Gables Insider’s tour of the museum and this exhibit in January 2020 by clicking here.

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18 thoughts on “UPDATED: Community Concerned As Coral Gables Museum To Permanently Close Exhibit On Coral Gables History

  1. This letter is in support of preserving the permanent exhibit at Coral Gables Museum titled “Creating the Dream; George E. Merrick and his Vision for Coral Gables,” in accord with the agreement to maintain it in perpetuity.

    This extraordinary exhibit is a work of art, being created and curated by beloved historian and author Arva Moore Parks. It is a resource like no other in the United States.

    This exhibit is a reference for Coral Gables, that educates residents, staff, and elected public servants, on the unique mission and purpose of this community. This exhibit is a three dimensional library for visitors to Coral Gables, that transforms them into lifelong admirers, as our family’s guests invariably say after a stroll through the museum. This exhibit is an irreplaceable, priceless gift.

    Please respect the scholarship and excellence of those that came before you, leaving you with the responsibility to protect a beautiful place.

  2. As a Museum member, I thoroughly disagree with the decision to take down the Dreams exhibit showcasing Coral Gables history. This is the prime reason we bring our visitors to the Museum, and I never tire of seeing it.
    I respectfully recommend another way to preserve the exhibit for public use, including examining the type of lighting and consultation with other curators. Keep it on display!

  3. Oh, please don’t close this! As a City employee, and a former City Hall receptionist I ALWAYS directed people to visit this insightful exhibit. Even thought I have visited this City since I was a little girl and personally love it myself, I learned SO much history about the City and its founders as a City employee by visiting. This exhibit is a benefit to the City and would be quite sad if this closes.

  4. I don’t understand or support the surprising & controversial decision by the Coral Gables Museum to remove the permanent “Creating the Dream; George E. Merrick and his Vision for Coral Gables” — this is very short sighted, against the mission & vision of the museum and apparently reached by its board (whose members are a mixed bag of folks with easily notable conflicts of interest in many cases) without public, member and city/commissioner participation to name a few others. There is plenty of space in the museum (4 possible galleries/wall space to be exact) where the 2 upcoming temporary exhibits mentioned in their 2 back-to-back press releases (the Mediterranean Architecture exhibit that is mentioned in the original Gables Insider story below & the Dorothy Thomson Legacy exhibit that is not mentioned, but also upcoming ) can easily be shown. Or these 2 upcoming f exhibits could also be targeted to be online exhibits to complement the Dreams permanent collection exhibit should the museum be so busy, busy that no wall space is available from the 4 halls (and if so, that sounds like just bad internal planning by their board to me — museum exhibits are planned way in advance, and not designated to a space already spoken for as is already the permanent Merrick Dreams exhibit. ) Another question that begs asking is related to roof leaks —- does this Museum & its board not have a maintenance plan/schedule to prevent incidents such as water penetration before (!) it happens? As the owner of the historic museum, the City should also be on top of this. And doesn’t the museum board needs to hold itself responsible to the protection of the museum contents as stewards of the collection? Anything else is negligent on either/both ends. We do this as residents to protect our own homes so how could it have gotten to that careless level at the museum? And then they come up with the idea to remove the permanent collection that both parties are tasked to steward & protect? No — Something very dysfunctional & irresponsible seems sadly to be going on. Repair the walls /ceiling for water intrusion, assess for damage & conservation (what else is it supposedly being assessed for, surely not elimination) any part of the Dreams collection that needs to be restored to its original state while leaving the rest up with a placeholder that XYZ is being restored, and use the other Museum spaces for the 2 temp exhibits in October & in the future (or put these 2 “new” exhibits online if you need to). And always with an overarching focus on cultural, historical, architectural …. As has been/still is the mission of this community museum. The original history of Coral Gables was written long ago — the Dream exhibit tells the story powerfully and accurately for the period it covers and was conceived and curated by someone who knows it best. That history has not changed and neither should this exhibit.

  5. THANK YOU COMMISSIONER ANDERSON FOR ADDING ITEM TO UPCOMING AGENDA FOR DISCUSSION.

    The “Creating the Dream” exhibit was conceived as a permanent display and the principle building block when public funds were appropriated for the new Coral Gables Museum.

    “Historic Preservation” is clearly stated in the museum’s mission statement. Susan Corrigan makes a strong point on this issue: “The history…will forever be forgotten if they don’t display these artifacts and memorabilia of the past.”

    As the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city looms, tangible proof of its beginnings should be embraced and enhanced.

  6. I’m not mad about this, though I understand peoples’ concerns. The museum’s directors are professionals: they’re trained in preservation and are taking steps to *preserve* the artifacts in question. I trust that the artifacts will be well managed and back on display in due time.

    I’m glad to see the concept of preservation taking precedence here. It’s something South Florida has done a terrible job of.

  7. The history of city mayors and there legacy will forever be forgotten if they don’t display these artifacts and memorabilia of the past. A suggestion feature some of these artifacts and if the older ones need refurbished then do so. This museum needs TLC and to take care of these priceless history of Coral Gables.

  8. By removing this exhibit, surely the museum will need to change their mission statement!
    “an appreciation for the history, vision, and cultural landscape of Coral Gables: promoting beauty and planning as well as historic and environmental preservation for a broad audience; including children, families, and community members, as well as local, regional, national and international visitors.”
    If they remove the exhibit The City of Coral Gables should remove the funding. That $250,000 a year can be used for preservation projects around the city instead.

  9. Coral Gables Museum Mission Statement:

    “The Museum’s mission is to celebrate, investigate and explore the civic arts of architecture and urban and environmental design, including fostering an appreciation for the history, vision, and cultural landscape of Coral Gables: promoting beauty and planning as well as historic and environmental preservation for a broad audience; including children, families, and community members, as well as local, regional, national and international visitors. The museum optimizes its mission by cultivating effective partnerships, and providing programming that includes exhibitions, collections, educational offerings, lectures, tours, publications and special events. Exhibits will focus on architecture, urban design and planning, sustainable development and historic and environmental preservation.”

    I sincerely hope the Executive Director and Board of Directors reacquaint themselves with the words in the original mission statement and stay true to the mission.

    Ellen Dyer
    Former Special Projects Coordinator, and Membership & Volunteer Coordinator
    2012-2016

  10. It would be nice if Coral Gables residents could donate any paraphernalia related to the city that they may have to be placed on exhibit. This way the collection could grow and people would still get to see items related to our rich cultural history in our little town.

  11. ISN’T IT IRONIC? PERMANENT EXHIBIT WILL CLOSE PERMANENTLY.

    The permanent Merrick exhibit, “a forever exhibit” as referred to by the late Arva Moore Parks, who created the permanent exhibit to honor the founding of our city, and remained its curator until her death in 2020, is being closed without open public participation. The gallery space was funded by donors Betty & L.D . Pankey to house the permanent exhibit.

    Adding a virtual component is appropriate and I commend the museum professionals for introducing the idea, but it should complement the physical collection. Not replace it.

    Although I understand that the collection has been displayed since 2011 and the condition of the historical artifacts may need to be assessed, the conservation work should be handled in situ in order to protect the exhibit’s original integrity.

    YES, the museum is a gem. An institution “promoting…historic and environmental preservation…A true public/private partnership between the City of Coral Gables and the Coral Gables Museum Corp…Operating as an educational cultural institution within a city owned facility.” [Excerpt Coral Gables Museum Mission Statement]

    The city museum is also partially funded by us, the taxpayer, at approximately a quarter of a million dollars annually.

    Any major decision that affects a change to the founding component of the museum’s genesis should warrant public participation.

    With all respect to the powers that be, the Coral Gables Museum is home to our city’s history and collective cultural patrimony. It serves as a repository of history that fosters cultural and educational objectives. Relegating a cornerstone of the city’s founding to a virtual presentation just as the Centennial nears makes no real sense.

  12. The museum is a gem. It has many varied and interesting activities for the community throughout the year. It’s been a venue for art exhibits, speakers, music presentations and many others. The George Merrick exhibit can be kept online for anyone interested.

  13. This is a wonderful museum run by professionals. You should probably have a museum person comment in your story if you want to be fair. One-sided story.

  14. I recently went to the CG Museum on a Sunday afternoon to hear a lecture and video presentation by Hobart Earle, Conductor of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. What I thought I was just doing was supporting Ukraine. What I received for my $30 was much more than any chance to be counted. Mr. Earle ran through a history of the music of the Region accompanied by video clips of performances by the orchestra. I not only heard new music,I learned how much geography, history and politics shapes a culture and music. A lifelong learner, I appreciated this very much. While the Museum should retain an exhibit of the history of the Gables, enhancing the Museum’s arts and cultural programs is welcomed. Congratulations to the Museum Director and his staff for a delightfully,informative, engaging Sunday.

  15. Totally disagree that the museum is a waste of money. It is important to have an important cultural center in downtown CG.
    Could the information on George Merrick be put online? Thst way citizens and students would have access. And an occasional partial exhibit could solve the issue of concern by the Director.

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