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Director sees a busy future after museum

Florida International Museum couldn't afford him, but James E. Broughton said Wednesday that he already has four blockbuster exhibits and a list of cities begging for his services as he steps out on his own.

Broughton soon will leave his job as exhibition director at the downtown museum, possibly as early as April.

It is a mutual good-bye: The museum chose not to renew his three-year contract after Broughton organized critically acclaimed but financially troubled exhibits on Russia, Egypt and Greece. The current "Alexander the Great" is lagging at about a third of projected attendance.

On Wednesday, Broughton said he will freelance internationally.

In the works, he said, are a series of Russian exhibits from the Hermitage that will travel to at least four U.S. cities; a private collection that will be tapped for a show on Imperial Japan; an exhibit of Chinese treasures that will be displayed around the world on a ship; and Scotland's national treasures, which will be highlighted in another exhibit.

Broughton said he expects an announcement as early as June for "Nicholas and Alexandra," with artifacts from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, to open in a U.S. venue in April 1998.

"Within six months of Alexander's (March 31) close, we will need twice or three times the staff we have now," Broughton said of his company, Broughton International Inc. "Hopefully, we will be opening an office here in the Tampa Bay area, but our work is going to be in other places. Most of our personnel will be on the road quite a bit of that time."

Broughton declined to list venues for his shows or detail how he will cover expenses and pay salaries when the $93,000 monthly payments from Florida International Museum stop. The money will come, he said, from sponsors, investors and, primarily, the venues themselves.

A meeting is scheduled today between Broughton and museum board chairman John Galbraith to discuss ending Broughton's contract before its original July 31 date.

A key sticking point, museum officials said, is Broughton's unwillingness to allow employees at the museum, virtually all of whom work for his company, to talk to the museum about job opportunities there.

The museum is restructuring its management and readying a November exhibit on the Titanic. It could use experienced people, Galbraith has said. But Broughton has a clause in his contract prohibiting the 30 or so BII employees from working for the museum for a year unless he gives his permission.

Broughton says he's keeping them all.

"My entire organization has known for quite some time this is what I had in mind," he said Wednesday.

Broughton describes his company's future as similar to what it does now, minus the museum building. BII is a full-service consultant, linking collectors and museums with places that want to exhibit their treasures, then designing the tours, the galleries, the promotions and other details, much as BII did here.