As we wrap up with the Museum’s 60th anniversary year of celebrations, I’m reminded of a quote by Domenico Cieri Estrada, “Bring the past up only if you are going to build from it.” I believe this quote reflects what has guided us this past year as well as our most recent activities and initiatives as we move into the future.
Over the past several months, the Museum’s senior staff and board have been studying, attending retreats and meetings and holding discussions to strategically plan the Museum’s next five years as well as position the Museum for many years thereafter. This process is still on-going but so far an analysis of the Museum’s strengths and weaknesses has been completed along with an assessment of the threats and opportunities which may lie ahead of the Museum. The Museum’s current mission and vision statements and core values have been carefully reviewed with revisions being proposed. Preliminary goals have been established and objectives for those goals are being worked on.
Central to the planning process have been the recommendations contained within the Museum’s interpretive and master feasibility plans.
One of the threats easily identified in our planning process concerned the unknown future of government funding for the Museum. This threat is well illustrated by our state’s dramatic cuts in funding for our State’s arts and cultural industry. An industry with a $4.7 billion economic impact for the state and responsible for 132,366 full-time jobs. Of course, these dramatic cuts by nearly 90 percent, from $25 million down to $2.6 million, have impacted the Tallahassee Museum.
In 2017, the Museum received a state general operating state grant totaling $97,379, last year that grant was reduced to $47,368 and in our current fiscal year, the Museum’s state grant will amount to $10,131!
While these cuts are not going to close our doors, the loss of this revenue definitely has an impact on what we are able to provide to our audiences as well as our abilities to use those funds to leverage additional funds from the private sector. Plus, it puts pressure on us to find ways to cut expenses and new sources of revenues such as donations and price increases to help offset the losses.
Even more importantly, the loss of these funds have a direct economic impact on our community with less dollars to spend with our local businesses, on our payroll and payroll taxes, and the taxes indirectly generated for our local governments through our visitors, employees, and local vendors.
Fortunately, through our careful stewardship and the continued generosity of our donors and other public and private grant sources, we have been able to move forward with some critically important projects at the Museum this year. For instance,
- The Bellevue House has a new roof;
- The construction of a new bear exhibit and new red wolf holding cages are underway;
- The addition of new educational interpretation along our Florida Wildlife Trail and more interpretation forthcoming along the nature trail and church cemetery;
- The initiation of fabrication for new snake cages; and,
- The improvement of the Museum’s directional maps.
In closing, I would like to extend a warm thanks from the entire Museum family and say goodbye to a couple of valuable long-time employees.
Ms Linda Deaton, our Curator of Collections and Exhibits, who has effective served the Museum for over 33 years has retired. Our Assistant Curator of Collections and Exhibits, Ms Gwendolyn Waldorf who has been with the Museum for over 27 years in a variety of capacities, including Assistant Director, is also retiring in the very near future. Linda and Gwendolyn will be greatly missed and their knowledge, skills, dedication, hard work and many accomplishments over the years have greatly helped bring the Museum to where it is today!
Russell S. Daws