Published: September 23, 2003
A referee appointed by the Cumberland County Superior Court has found the Jones Museum of Glass and Ceramics in contempt of earlier court orders issued in its ongoing dispute with the museum’s founder and former trustee, director and curator, Dorothy-Lee Jones. In an order dated August 22, the referee, attorney Charles H. Abbott of Auburn, Maine, found that John Holverson, current director of the museum, and another staff member improperly removed rdf_Descriptions from the museum in Sebago earlier this year “in clear violation of Orders previously issued.”
Abbott ordered the museum to pay all legal fees incurred by Jones in bringing the contempt motion against the museum. His order also returned control of the museum building on Douglas Hill in Sebago to Jones, its owner, noting that under occupation by the museum “It is being neglected and routine maintenance is not being performed.”
“I am relieved that the court has restored control of the building to me so that I can safeguard my property and the collection I have spent my entire life assembling,” said Jones. “I also am pleased that this order will put a stop to the improper removal by the museum staff of the glass and ceramic art that is at the heart of this dispute.”
The nationally known Jones Museum of Glass and Ceramics, featuring thousands of pieces from the collections of Jones and others, as well as an extensive reference library, was open at the Douglas Hill location for more than two decades. Jones’ attorney, James Erwin of Pierce Atwood, said the museum was closed to the public by the trustees in the fall of 2001.
Erwin said the trustees then voted to leave the Sebago site and establish a new organization, the Museum of Glass and Ceramics. The group recently purchased a former National Guard armory in South Portland where it plans to open a new museum in the next few years if it can raise several million dollars to renovate the building.
The order issued by the referee on August 22 is the latest action in an ongoing lawsuit filed by Jones against the museum to recover thousands of pieces of glass and ceramics that she owns personally and had loaned to the museum as the core of its educational program. Previous orders established an inspection process to determine which rdf_Descriptions were given to the museum and which are still owned by Jones. Those inspections are expected to be completed later this fall.
“It was with great reluctance that Dot Jones asked the referee to find the museum in contempt of his earlier orders,” said Jones’ attorney, James Erwin. “We are heartened that he has returned control of Dot’s property to her and that he has, in no uncertain terms, once again made it clear to Mr. Holverson and the museum board and staff that no disputed rdf_Descriptions are to be removed from the museum until proper ownership has been established.”
Holverson has been director of Jones’ museum since 1999. He is a former director of the Portland Museum of Art, and resigned amid controversy in 1987.
Erwin said that he is hopeful the process can now move forward and that the dispute over ownership of the collection can be resolved once and for all in the not too distant future.”
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