"Always Telling the Truth Means Never Having to Remember Anything"
Editorials: Roswell Local
By Dennis Balthaser
Is the Roswell UFO Museum & Annual UFO Festival becoming a thing of the past?
As one who remains dedicated to researching the Roswell Incident, it concerns me that the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the annual Roswell UFO Festival seem to have deteriorated to an embarrassment for the city of Roswell and those of us that remain interested in obtaining the truth.
In 1996 I moved to Roswell, was actively involved as a volunteer at the museum (1996-98), and helped promote the museum and the festival. Several local individuals with the purpose of having the whole community involved for the benefit of Roswell for tourism and financial benefits first organized the annual July festival in 1995.
Visitor numbers for the annual event grew each year as more community involvement was added and “peaked” with the 50th anniversary in 1997. This past July the number of visitors to Roswell for the annual event was pathetically low, and no one with the UFO committee involved in organizing this year’s festival, headed up by Museum Director, Julie Shuster, has come forward with any numbers of how few attended. The loss of revenue to the museum and the city of Roswell this year appears to be staggering, and many believe it can be directly attributed to the UFO committee, and the manner in which it was presented. If the Museum and the Festival are to prosper and benefit Roswell, changes are needed. Too much hard work has been devoted over the years in promoting Roswell, the Museum, and Festival to let it continue on its present course.
The museum was established by co-founders Glenn Dennis, Walter Haut, and Max Littell in 1991, and none of them had any idea that it would grow as it did the first 10 years, drawing some 200,000 visitors to Roswell each year. The founders were also emphatic that the museum should always remain free to the public. Under the current Museum Director and Board of Directors, that is changing. Currently the museum has a “suggested adult admission donation fee of $2.00”, ($1.00 for 18 and under), and if in the future the Museum decides to charge an admission fee, it will be a direct violation of the co-founders desire for the museum to remain free to the public.
The music concerts scheduled for this year’s festival were moved from a city park to the fairgrounds due to the city not approving a “beer permit” for Ms Shuster. Greed at the museum has caused the city to loose tens of thousands of dollars in annual festival revenue by country music star Merle Haggard withdrawing his annual concert from the festival. A few years ago when Haggard brought in Willie Nelson, 6000 people attended the concert---this years’ three concerts drew 200, 300 and 1000 each, according to the Roswell Daily Record even with beer sales. Research, new displays, community involvement and management seem to be a thing of the past for the Roswell Museum and the Festival under the current Director and Board of the UFO Museum.
Guy Malone has brought in well-known speakers each July on the subject of UFOs for his symposium in conjunction with the annual event. This year Ms Shuster announced on the Roswell 2006 UFO Festival website, “Any events not included in this schedule are not sanctioned by the Roswell 2006 Festival”. For the Festival to be a community project, her sanctioning events are not needed or desired. Church on the Move planned an all day event for people to enjoy, which included honoring our veterans and a fireworks display in the evening---Ms Shuster tried to stop that, as reported in the Roswell Daily Record, and again because there was no organization for the Festival or community involvement that were under her leadership, problems arose.
Several of the out-of-town visitors attending this year’s festival in July, planned their vacations around coming to Roswell and many indicated to me that they were bored and visited the Historical Museum of Southeast New Mexico because there wasn’t anything to do with the UFO Festival. I occasionally lecture at other UFO symposiums around the country and those always have a full slate of speakers, most being all day long for 3 or 4 days. Aztec, NM and the Rachael, Nevada symposiums, where I spoke this year had a minimum of nine speakers for their conferences. As they do every year, Roswell again had Don Schmitt, Tom Carey and Derrell Sims as their headline speakers. In a comment in the Roswell Daily Record newspaper, Carey stated that, “ he and Schmitt are the only “active” researchers about the Roswell Incident.” Stanton Friedman is the original civilian Roswell researcher, (dating back to 1978). He was invited last year but was not asked to do a lecture. David Rudiak, Don Burleson, myself and several others are very actively researching the Roswell Incident, but not according to Tom Carey.
I have received several contentious letters (two by Certified U.S. mail), from Museum Director Julie Shuster, in the past two years. The board of directors at the museum, is obviously not aware of such tactics by their director, and unlike other organizations with a board of directors, the UFO Museum Director apparently controls the board, rather than the board controlling the Director. All of my research is copyrighted with the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and I have the documentation to support all lectures I’ve written, videotaped, and presented. The Museum purchased my lecture videos from me and sold them willingly in their gift shop at a 100 percent markup from1998 until 2 years ago, and are now telling me I can no longer sell my own copyrighted lecture tapes anywhere. It is not only unethical but also unreasonable to try and claim “my copyrighted work” 8 years later.
Ms Shuster and gift shop manager Sandy James showed up at a local lecture I did in Feb 2006, which I concluded was to try to intimidate me during my lecture, which failed on their part.
New Mexico MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) is not allowed to have their meetings at the UFO Museum because Board President, Jack Swickard, stated that he considers MUFON “competition” for the Museum. Nothing could be further from the truth and shows the mentality and lack of Ufology knowledge of the current leadership at the Museum.
The Mission Statement of the UFO Museum, Article 1-Purpose of Corporation states,
“ The International UFO Museum and Research Center at Roswell, New Mexico was organized to inform the public about what has come to be known as “The Roswell Incident.” The final sentence of Article 1, states, “The International UFO Museum’s constituents are committed to gathering and disbursing to all interested parties, the most qualified and accurate up-to-date information available.”
In one of the letters I received from Ms Shuster, I was told, “ I could not make any statements about any conversations I ever had with Museum co-founder Walter Haut.”
Censorship and suppression of one’s research as has been my own experience with the museum director, is not part of their Mission Statement.
If that Mission Statement is in fact the purpose of the Museum, perhaps changes are needed not only with the Director and certain board members but also with the need to work with the community for the benefit of all of Roswell, and finally to make the “Roswell Incident” a household name again worldwide as it was in the 90’s. Many of us that live here and have been involved, or are still involved with the Roswell Incident research are concerned and desire that changes be made for the benefit of Roswell and the entire UFO community. This concern is evidenced by several letters to the editor of the Roswell Daily Record newspaper since the Festival in July from individuals airing their concerns about the museum and the festivals demise in recent years.
As a serious, respected UFO Investigator, Lecturer and Journalist, I continue to believe that the UFO Museum in Roswell is a vitally needed facility for the public, as the original co-founders intended it. Unfortunately, it no longer has the respect of the serious UFO community, and as observed by comments of visitors this year, even the general public has seen a decline in the Museum and the annual Festival.
Revenue generated from the Roswell Incident, for Roswell and southeast New Mexico is of major importance and must not be allowed to continue in the downward spiral it’s currently on. Many that come to Roswell are curious and could care less about UFOs, but in the past they came, and businesses in Roswell and surrounding areas benefited from that. We should have learned from those in the past that the annual festival must be a community effort, not an attempt by individuals with their own agenda, who try to sanction their own interests and hurt the whole community in doing so.
As for the UFO Museum, it needs to comply with its own Mission Statement; be a research center as advertised, presenting all sides of the Roswell Incident; and finally, organize a board of directors that is in charge and allowed to voice opinions that may not be in agreement with the Director.
Copyright © 2006, Dennis G. Balthaser
Photo of Max Littell used by permission
Photos of Glenn Dennis and Walter Haut by Dennis Balthaser
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