|« Collin County murderer to be executed Tuesday (updated)||County to spend $5 million on Outer Loop condemnations (updated) »|
History center in McKinney fighting to survive
Monday, March 1, 2010
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
Vicki Day is trying to preserve the museum that preserves Collin County.
The 28-year-old North Texas History Center in downtown McKinney could close because of a sharp cut in county funding and private donations, said Day, executive director.
"We are in serious jeopardy of running out of money shortly," she said.
The museum took an unexpected financial hit when Collin County commissioners slashed its funding from $134,950 in fiscal 2009 to $32,000 this year, Day said.
"I was so surprised," she said.
Commissioners say they told Day last year the museum needed to become self-sufficient through private fundraising.
It had been receiving far greater county funding than other historical organizations, said County Judge Keith Self, who heads the Commissioners Court.
"The North Texas History Center is a wonderful organization, but they are just one of many historical organizations in the county," he said.
Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said the county had to focus limited funding on core functions, such as building roads and operating courts and the jail.
"These are tough economic times," he said. "You have to make cuts that are not always popular with people."
Civil War event
The history center had hoped a Civil War re-enactment last November at Myers Park in McKinney would raise $50,000. Instead, the event lost $7,000, worsening the museum's outlook, Day said.
Attendance didn't meet projections, and recent heavy rains prevented people from parking on the grounds, she said. As a result, organizers had to rent buses to take people to and from the park. In addition, insurance costs to hold the event exceeded expectations, Day said.
Commissioner Joe Jaynes, who took part in the Civil War re-enactment, voted against cutting the museum's funding. He said another year of higher county funding might have helped the center hold a successful Civil War event.
"Those re-enactments can basically be a cash cow, but you need three or four years to get it going," Jaynes said.
In search of help
Day said the history center may seek money from the city of McKinney, which currently does not provide funds. It may also approach the county commissioners again, she said.
"It's worth the county getting involved to help us survive," she said. "We've got a collection that is very unique."
About 8,000 students a year from Collin and surrounding counties visit the North Texas History Center, Day said.
On Friday, two fifth-grade classes from Daffron Elementary School in Plano attended and saw a Civil War exhibit.
"It's wonderful," said Cindy Burns, one of the teachers. "We teach the Civil War in school, and this really gives them the opportunity to see how it affected their ancestors."
The museum is housed in an old post office, built in 1911, at Virginia Parkway and Chestnut Street, a block off the square in downtown McKinney. It has exhibits with photographs and a variety of artifacts on the main floor and in the basement.
The museum has tried to sell memberships and get corporate sponsors for exhibits, but had little success, Day said. It receives revenue from school field trips, ticket sales and gift shop purchases.
The history center is holding a "Save the Museum" rally on its front steps on Saturday. It's also having a dinner and lecture on March 27 with Arch Bonnema, a Collin County resident who funded an expedition to Iran in search of Noah's ark. Tickets are $75.
"This could make a world of difference for us," Day said. "We hope we can clear about $7,000."
Jaynes said he hopes the museum can remain open. Although he supports it, he doesn't believe county commissioners will approve any additional funding.
"The court has let its will be known," Jaynes said.
The Observer comments:
My wife and I went to see the "Reluctant Confederate" exhibit at the NTHS last Saturday.
The building is a real jewel, and the exhibit was interesting and informative. Anyone interested in the history of their community will be entertained and educated by a trip to the North Texas History Center.
Note to Joe Jaynes -- put your Confederate uniform back on before the next court and fight a little harder for these guys. They deserve our support.
And what about ALL that funding for Pizza Pie Park in Frisco, helping a stadium for a profit-making professional sports team? That never went before the people for permission...as well as county money plunged into the yet-to-be-constructed ACCC.
Besides, history is not appreciated in Collin County; most people don't know the county's background or history and don't care. To them, history is when their sub-division was constructed. It's a sad state of affairs, led by one of the saddest group, the county commissioners.
Comments are closed for this post.