End of Road for Airis v. Saint Louis Science Center

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Jennifer Silverberg
Kevin Airis and one of his grandfather's Native American headdresses.
​It appears the battle between Kevin Airis and the Saint Louis Science Center, which Airis claims stole 36 Native American artifacts that had once belonged to his grandfather, Thomas Airis, has come to an end. The Missouri Supreme Court decided yesterday to let the ruling of the Court of Appeals, which had found in favor of the science center, stand.

Riverfront Times recounted the entire story, from the Airis family's decision to give the artifacts to the science center for safekeeping back in 1974, in last summer's feature story, "The Case of the Missing Eagle Feathers."

When the Airis family requested the return of Thomas Airis's artifacts in 2008, the science center gave back only eleven pieces. James Houser, the former curator of the science center, said that he had returned the 36 items to Thomas Airis in 1975 and produced a receipt with both his and Thomas's signatures. (Kevin Airis claimed the receipt had been forged.) Kevin Airis sued the science center for $5 million, the estimated value of the missing objects plus interest.

Much to Kevin Airis's dismay, the case never went to trial. The circuit court issued a summary judgment that the Airises had waited too long to ask for their things back; an acceptable statute of limitations was only five years.

At the time, Airis had vowed that if he got nowhere with his legal battle, which had already cost him and his family upwards of $50,000, he would attempt to discredit the science center with the American Association of Museums, a national organization that provides operating guidelines for museums.

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The AAM is working with the state legislators to have the ethic codes put in the museum act 184. For me to be able to get a bill in the senate and house and get the legislators to, in which I am personally seeing them is shows that the law was not followed.I really don't care if you believe this or not talk to your senator he tell you I was there and will be for the summer


As a museum professional, this comes as no surprise. Frankly, the Science Center should have never agreed to warehouse his stuff in the first place. If the receipt is real, then he has no case. This is why museums are never supposed to store people's stuff; you get someone claiming you never gave it back.

He'll get nowhere with AAM; they'll ignore him.


The loan agreement is forged there will be a law suite to have the doc certify as that. Which means we have a legal and binding contract. This is going to become a major story


I had Doc. In dispute , the same firm the St louis county police use to look at the doc. Their report confirms it is forged. I have to submitt it in court myself and have it proved it is forged. After that it becomes a crime when the court rules itis forged. We are now in the process of having this done now. You have to go through the legal system before you can produce new evidence. Is why this wasn't submitted. Remember we did not receive this doc till Dec 10 2010. As far as the AAM I am willing to bet you, Julie isn't going to ignore me. You see producing a forged doc is a big deal their is also guidlines you have to follow. Chris if you want to see the reports and the guidlines I will meet you. I have been meeting with the Missouri House about the museum Act to get there understanding. Oh one more thing the Minn state highway lab said the doc is forged to.

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