Smithsonian provost overseeing Cooper Hewitt after ouster of director

Caroline Baumann, then the director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, at the institution's 2017 National Design Awards gala in New York Scott Rudd/Sipa USA, via AP Images

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York is under the interim directorship of the Smithsonian Institutions provost following the controversial ouster of its director arising from an inquiry related to her 2018 wedding.

The provost, John Davis, who also holds the title of undersecretary for museums, education and research, already oversees all 19 of the Smithsonian museums, many research units, the National Zoo, multiple offices and programs related to education and the Smithsonian press and libraries. A Smithsonian spokeswoman, relaying Daviss interim role at the Cooper Hewitt, says that the institution was also preparing to begin a hunt for a new director and would form a search committee.

The New York Times reported that the museums director, Caroline Baumann, was forced to resign from her position on 7 February after an investigation by the Smithsonians inspector general into how she obtained the dress for her 18 September 2018 wedding and secured the site for the ceremony. The newspaper said that the inspector general had questioned the discrepancy between the $750 Baumann paid for the dress, created by the designer Samantha Sleeper, and the $3,000 starting price for gowns advertised on Sleepers website.

The Cooper Hewitt plays a key role in showcasing design and designers through its exhibitions and events like its National Design Awards.

The Smithsonians inquiry also focused on the location of the ceremony, LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York, which has ties to the Cooper Hewitt and did not charge Baumann for the use of its facilities, the Times reported.

The museum declined to comment on the inquiry or the reason for the directors ouster, saying that her departure was a confidential personnel matter.

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