Nothing but bad news came out of the Chapel Hill Museum’s board meeting last night. Monday will be the last day the public can see the exhibits, though the gift shop likely will remain open for another week, said Stephen Rich, the museum’s treasurer. All that inventory must be sold, as well as the museum’s furnishings. The museum has run out of money.
“We got lots of verbal support in the past month and a half, but very little financial support,” Rich said. “It’s tight right now, and nonprofits are the first to get hit and the last to come out of recessions.”
Reducing the museum’s hours won’t buy any time, Rich said, because the museum must still pay all upkeep and operating costs, “even if it’s only open one hour a week.” Reduced hours wouldn’t make much difference in reduced personnel costs. Museum director Traci Davenport and one part-time staffer are the only two names on the payroll. Everyone else is a volunteer.
The museum must continue to pay rent and utilities until the lease ends in June 2011 or until the museum vacates the premises, whichever comes first. Before the town crafted its 2010-11 budget, the museum had asked for an additional $34,000 in operating aid. The town granted only $20,000.
“It’s very unfortunate that we’re closing, and there’s a lot of people sad about it, but we can’t go into debt,” said Rich, a CPA.
At one time, the concept of a virtual museum was bandied about, but information presented at last night’s board meeting dimmed that possibility, Rich said. The meeting on July 21 with the town will only be to air the museum board’s last questions.
The board is in the process of contacting owners of the artifacts donated to the museum to learn whether they would re-donate should the museum find more affordable space. The original museum grew out of a groundswell, albeit in better economic times, and perhaps that will happen again, Rich said.
But at least for the next few days, Rich said, “spread the word that the shop has some good bargains.”
And Traci Davenport is polishing her resume.
– Nancy Oates