City Museum short $30k

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Renée Foster and Bo Hemphill visit the Raleigh City Museum as the museum works to fill a $30,000 budget gap. Photo by Bryan LeClaire.

The Raleigh City Museum is requesting $15,000 from the City Council to supplement its budget for the next fiscal year.

The money would go toward filling a $30,000 budget shortfall caused by a faulty air conditioner and a rental vacancy in the museum’s downtown Briggs Building location.

Intended to pay for general operating expenses, the $15,000 would add to the $157,500 that the museum has already received from the city for the current fiscal year.

The remainder of the financial gap would come from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, second only to the city as a funding source for the museum. The museum’s total budget is $303,000.

As 20-percent owner of the Briggs Building, the nonprofit City Museum reaps the benefits of building income distribution every year. Although the museum pays $93,000 in annual rent, its net rent amounts to about $60,000 after this payout.

But economic hardship has forced the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, 40-percent owner and third-floor tenant of the Briggs Building, to vacate the premises. Although a new occupant has moved into the empty space, the museum is now shouldering a larger portion of the rent.

“We got them in with a teaser rate on the rent,” said Greg Paul, chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “Ultimately it will be a good thing, with increased revenue.”

Combined with air conditioning repairs, the current rent adjustment resulted in the $30,000 budget hole.

The city council’s Budget and Economic Development Committee was to hear the museum’s request at its meeting of Tuesday, February 8, but no representative from the museum showed up.

The funding request is not slated for discussion at the next BED Committee meeting. Paul, however, remains optimistic about its chances. “I have personally had a conversation with every city councilor, and they are all on board with this request,” he said.

Hats and one big gun on display at the Raleigh City Museum. Photo by Bryan LeClaire.

Programming for a New Generation

In addition to the funding request, the museum will present a plan to form a committee charged with giving future exhibits an up-to-date flavor more consistent with trends at other museums.

“Most of our exhibits are artifacts and information printed on placards and stuck on a wall,” said Paul. “Including technology is what makes us able to move forward.”

Paul believes that a renovation of programming will garner new funding sources among technology and tech-related companies in the Triangle area.

Although the exact make-up and structure of the proposed committee has yet to be determined, Mayor Charles Meeker speculated that the city would appoint representatives. “As the major supporter [of the museum], naturally they would want to make sure we’re on board with what they’re talking about,” said Meeker.

Paul understands the city’s interest and frames the trustees’ intentions this way: “How are we parlaying the investment that the city makes into more?”

The push toward a more tech-savvy style is not prompted by a drop or stagnation in attendance. In 2010, the museum saw approximately 23,000 visitors, according to Donna Martin-Devine, director of visitor services. This number includes participants in on-site and off-site educational programs, exhibit openings, First Night events, and the Homebrewed beer fest.

“Attendance has certainly remained steady or increased because we’re attracting younger folks,” said Martin-Devine.

Because the museum does not charge admittance, attendance does not generate revenue.

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