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Museum Losses Space Artifacts

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The following article appeared June 11, 2009 in the

 South Florida Science Museum pays $12k to ex-board member for missing items.

By Stacey Singer
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

June 11, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Science Museum has paid $12,000 to a former board member after several pieces of space memorabilia disappeared.

   The ex-board member, a retired Catskills stage manager who now runs a DVD duplication business in Boca Raton, believes two hammers and a Russian shuttle window were stolen while on loan to the West Palm Beach museum. He demanded that the museum reimburse him for what he paid for the items. Newman, who left the board in January, in part because of the dispute. "Remember all the space stuff? The suits, the mannequins? All the robots? I own those robots. All of that was mine."

   Museum executives said they have no records to prove the missing items were lost by them. Under previous management, Newman came and went with his space stuff without keeping records, said Deputy Director Rachel Docekal.

   Newman is a space and robot collector who lends his collection to science museums and libraries. A longtime backer of the museum, Newman kept the collection at the science museum between bookings, he said. He insisted the items were there and vanished one day.

   "There were two hammers - one was used on the MIR space station, another on construction of the international space station," he said. "They also lost a 90-pound cockpit shuttle window from the Russian space shuttle."

   Because of the lack of records, Docekal said, museum officials felt they had no choice but to accept Newman's demands.

   As a result of the dispute, some of the cosmonaut and NASA space suits that used to be a fixture of the museum are now on display at the Boynton Beach City Library.

   "When he made this allegation that we had lost the hammer and the window, we got all his stuff together, cleaned it and packaged it, and returned it to him," Docekal said. "We just took responsibility and made it right."

   "I wasn't looking to hurt anybody, I was looking for what I paid," Newman said.

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