Head of closed Kingsport museum facing worthless check, theft charges

Matthew Lane • Nov 25, 2012 at 5:33 AM

KINGSPORT — The overseer of the Mystery of Natural History Museum has been arrested on a worthless check charge and theft over $500 in connection to a gem and jewelry show held at the museum last year.

Mary McNabb of Kingsport was arrested at her Market Street apartment on Nov. 15 following a complaint made by Thomas Ewing, the officer manager of Action Rentals in July of this year. According to the incident report, McNabb wrote the $922 check in November 2011 on behalf of the Kingsport Museum Association — the oversight board for the museum.

The incident report continues by saying Ewing has received two money orders from McNabb, one for $125 and two for $25, along with letters stating sickness as the reason for a delay in payment.

McNabb’s next court date is scheduled for Jan. 8.

In an interview this week, McNabb said the check was for the rental of tables for a gem and jewelry show held at the museum and was written on behalf of the KMA.

“It was not my check. It was something that the KMA is responsible for and I intend to fight it till the end of time,” McNabb said. “I found out the check had come back and had been sending them as much as I could toward clearing it because I want to clear all of the debt of the museum.”

The Mystery of Natural History Museum was located in the old Lazer Tag building on Broad Street and featured a 40-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton replica, along with other dinosaur fossil displays and replicas, a NASA space exhibit, rock and mineral displays, fish and reptiles, and a 75-foot-long timeline mural.

The museum opened in June 2011 (essentially taking over from the previous museum at that location), but closed in January of this year due to financial reasons and low foot traffic. McNabb had hoped to reopen the museum by the end of the summer, but a lack of finances stymied that plan.

McNabb said she is not personally responsible for the debt, nor is she criminally liable, noting that the KMA is the responsible party. The KMA has several directors, but was not established as a nonprofit organization nor does it have any funds, McNabb said.

“I’m not the KMA. I didn’t just go down there and start a museum. There’s a lot of people in this town who asked me to help preserve the museum,” McNabb said. “I’m personally trying to find a way for them to pay all their debts. Not everything got paid, but my intention is to make all the debt rights.”

Earlier this year, two past-due invoices for the KMA arrived at City Hall — one for $942 from Lab Safety Supply (now Grainger Industrial Supply) of Janesville, Wis., and another for $3,623 from the United Kingdom Geologists Equipment of Suffolk, England. The invoices were for items associated with the gem and jewelry show, such as a magnifying light, portable lamp, hundreds of tumblestones, minerals and gems.

Finance Director Jim Demming said at the time he assumed the invoices came to city hall because “Kingsport” was in the name of the museum association. Demming said he informed the two companies Kingsport was not associated with the KMA.

McNabb said those invoices were also written by her on behalf of the KMA and that she did not intentionally write bad checks for the products.

“I’ve been real pro-active about keeping the (KMA) alive and keeping the museum alive. Things like this from the creditors of the museum are not helping me,” McNabb said. “I’m trying my best to make this situation work out till the museum can be brought back, but the money I’m going to be paying for bond, I could be donating to the museum association.”

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