Friday, February 06, 2009

360,000 a Year For 20 Years, Then County Could Take Over the Museum?

This figure flies in the face of reason and could be an indication of why it is taking a FDR type failed stimulus bill to get their (Cat) stock up a few dollars. (My wife is still mad at me for recommending she buy Cat stock at $56).

On 12/27/05 the Wall Street Journal published an article by Bruce Courson, Director of the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Mass. His article titled "In the Fray" tells why rural museums are becoming ancient history. "It is a story increasingly common for rural Massachusetts museums within a day's drive of major metropolitan areas. (Peoria to Chicago or St. Louis, 3 hours) Many have current paid attendance numbers that are nearing 50% of what they were three decades ago. My own institution, the Sandwich Glass Museum, saw attendance drop from 84,000 in the 1980's to 42,000 in 2000. (The Exploration Place museum, Wichita, Kansas dropped from 400,000 in 2000 to 180,000 in 2007. In an article in the Journal Star on 1/20/02, by Byron DeHann, titled, Wichita: A model museum plan, quotes Jim Richerson, President of Peoria's Lakeview Museum as saying "this museum parallels Peoria in project size, costs and consultants and there were strong similarities between Peoria and Wichita. Wichita has a population of 335,000 is only 35% larger than Peoria and has world class manufacturers like Boeing, Cessna, Bombardier-Lear Jet and Raytheon. Richerson said "Exploration Place has a concept of constant change just like planned for Peoria's new museum." DeHaan, a co-chairman of the local group collaborating to plan a new museum admitted that by 2002, Exploration place attendance 'appeared to be leveling off' at 250,000 a year, some "leveling off" if it was down to 180,000 by 2007..

Back to Mr. Courson; "This trend in dropping off of attendance is occurring along the Boston-Washington corridor as well. Numerous causes have been cited for this precipitous decline, including the weather and 9/11. But one factor stand out among the reasons behind this consistent, decades long trend: the 1976 deregulation of the the airline industry and a new era in cheap travel. Before deregulation, most vacations were taken in the summer by automobile and the automobile was the cheapest and preferred way of travel. Inexpensive travel by air allowed people to travel to all parts of the world, leaving their cars parked at the airport. Changing leisure-travel patterns of the American public are not a new phenomenon......"

Mr. Courson goes on about holding fund raising drives, increasing the size reducing admission fees to $4.50 and group fees to $1 dollar. Even with encouraging attendance figures, "the museum has only regained one-third of the attendance lost over the past three decades. The possibility of an uptick in attendance in rural locations is highly unlikely".

Wake up, Peoria, we are a "rural" location and will remain a rural location no matter how much "lipstick" we put on the privately funded, $626,000 "educating the public" campaign and the Build the Block banners.

360,000 visitors a year, year after year for 20 years, to see the new museum and Caterpillar Visitor Center? Sure and pigs with or without lipstick fly, too.

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