Home Pop Culture Disgruntled Natural History Museum volunteer launches into a disillusioned tirade after he...

Disgruntled Natural History Museum volunteer launches into a disillusioned tirade after he is told his services are no longer wanted.


Janet sent an email:
“Will you be coming by today? I can make time at 11 AM or 2 PM. Otherwise, Monday and Tuesday my calendar is open.”

Janet M. Morris
Director of Volunteer/Intern Services

I sent an email:  Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:38 PM
To:Janet Morris

Subject: I forgot that I am signed up for the 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Workshop at The Old Globe on storytelling
“Do you have time on Friday?”

Alan Bennett

SDNHM Canyoneers

Janet then sent an email:

“I have asked you several times to meet with me in person. Despite these repeated attempts, you have not come in.

Though you have given many hours to the Museum over the past years, I have received repeated complaints about your behavior. There are many volunteers who are unwilling to work with you and your most recent interactions with staff have shown me that you are unable to work in a cooperative and helpful manner with the Museum. I have no other choice than to ask you to step down as a volunteer.”

Janet M. Morris
Director of Volunteer/Intern Services
 San Diego Natural History Museum

When I asked to come in and clear the air of whatever issue was concerning her, she wrote back (by email):

“I am sorry but I will be out of the office on both Thursday and Friday.
I am not sure what you mean by clearing the air. The Museum no longer needs your services as a volunteer.”

Janet M. Morris
 Director of Volunteer/Intern Services
San Diego Natural History Museum

So I wrote to Michael W. Hager and asked to appeal the decision by Janet Morris and got the response below:

Dr. Hagen responded:


I have reviewed the action and concur with it. I am sorry but your behavior has left us with little choice. The decision is final.”

Mick Hager

Michael W. Hager, Ph.D.

So what is my story?

I have not been able to face my accusers or even get a face-to-face meeting to clearly understand why I have been told “my services are no longer required as a volunteer”.  Maybe I have been project oriented and brisk with people but I have never threatened or intimidated or berated anyone.  Any comments I have made have been face-to-face and “within the house.”

I have presented my point of view to staff on a couple of occasions and made my feelings known as clearly and directly as I could.  Maybe this wounded some sensibilities.  For example, on one occasion I notices mathematical discrepancies in information in the Volunteer Naturalists’ training manual and in the laminated cards we have for reference on the Hornblower Gray whale crises.

When it was brought up that we were short of the whaling card sets of Volunteer Naturalists and there were not enough for the 2010 class of “newbies”, I volunteered to do the laminating and pointed out again that there were some inaccuracies.  I also asked if the Volunteer Naturalist already trained should be included in the editing.  I was sternly told not to pursue involving ANY Volunteer Naturalist!

So I again brought up that one of the cards, dealing with the Gray Whale Migration was factually inaccurate in that it seemed to base the numbers on a BK ¼ hamburger weighed ¼ pound.  I pointed out the Burger King website said their BK 1/4 hamburger weighed six (6) ounces.  The factoid read:  “Gains 6% of body weight daily [42,000 (sic) lbs for 70,000 lb whale or 16,800 ¼-pounders daily].  I agree that a 35 ton adult Gray whale probably weighs about 70,000 pounds.  There was, what I suspect, was a typo as 6% of 70,000 pounds is 4,200 pounds.  There are sixteen ounces in a pound, or 2 2/3rds BK ¼ pounders per pound.  Multiplying by 4,200 pounds, the number of hamburgers would be 11,200 (not the 16,800 on the card).  Janet said it was just for an example and was fine.  I said I could not be party to purposeful giving out erroneous information and withdrew from the project.  Is this what Janet means by “not cooperative”?

Or was it the dust-up I caused when I reported that the “Polar Expeditions” display (actually the book outside the video area) in the “Ends of the World” exhibit needed to provide clarifying information that it was actually the Beringia people who first explored the northern climes of American when they crossed the Bering land bridge, some 16,500 years ago.   Nor was there any



  1. Alan Bennett is known throughout the community of San Diego for being a dedicated, hardworking, and conscientious volunteer–for many causes.

    The management at the SDNHM has handled this situation very poorly and they should be ashamed. To dismiss one of their best volunteers because he refuses to let erroneous information be provided to the public, speaks to the ethics and professionalism of the executive team, which is obviously sadly lacking.

    If anything Alan ought to be rewarded for wanting to maintain high standards, but instead, they let him go–because he would have them provide correct and honest information. Alan is absolutely correct in saying the museum is an educational institution, and it is critical that any information provided with an exhibit, whether it was provided by others or not, should be completely correct and accurate in every way.

    Those responsible for Alan Bennett being let go, ought to be brought to task and explain why they knowingly are providing the public with bad information. Do they really believe putting the blame on those who gave it to them is an adequate excuse?.

    It is people such as these that lower the quality of San Diego’s institutions and besmirch the reputation of this fine city. They make our museums look low rent. All they care about is their substantially inflated paychecks, and the public and the exhibits, and the information provided matters not a whit. Someone ought to do something about this reprehensible situation.

  2. Well… I guess they don’t need help. Hopefully the public will remember when they ask for volunteers or donations. I won’t donate.

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