The Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center has managed to survive the past year and now needs increased public support to once again thrive in future years.
Board members have increased donations even as they’ve cut staff and programs, but the present level of funding is not enough to sustain a thriving Museum. They’ve cut programs from 90 per year to 24 and exhibits from 12 per year to four. They’ve fallen behind in serving public requests for assistance. They can’t adequately preserve their historic artifacts or their buildings.
They’re requesting increased funding from Douglas and Chelan Counties and the Cities of East Wenatchee and Wenatchee to improve services and use the increased base to raise even more funds from services, donations, grants and research projects.
Why should we spend taxpayer dollars to support our museum? Because it is the only museum that comprehensively preserves the Valley’s cultural, artistic, historical, natural and scientific foundation of our region’s heritage.
The Museum preserves official and public historical artifacts. The Museum has more than 50,000 historical treasures that require professional expertise to catalogue, store, and handle for exhibits and displays. It’s more than a dusty warehouse. It needs to protect artifacts from amateurs like me who had to be stopped after I touched one without wearing white gloves.
The federal government has designated the Smithsonian as its official repository and supports the majority of its budget. Our museum is the caretaker of essential public attractions. It has the Miss Veedol propeller and other artifacts about Pangborn flight history that are a vital brand for East Wenatchee heritage and commerce. It stores the Clovis Points from Douglas County according to federal, state, tribal and scientific requirements.
Surveys of local museums show local public support is common. The 2008 Museum Public Finance Survey for the Institute of Museum and Library Services heard from museum officials that public “general operating support at the local level was crucial.” Over two-thirds of museums similar to our type of museum, such as History museums, Children’s museums and Natural History and Natural Science museums, have some local governmental support. Funding is provided through budget line items, sales tax allocations and voter approved property tax allocations.
The Museum is more than a heritage source. It’s a children’s museum. It educates schoolchildren and adults. It brings in tourists and research grants. It helps families, businesses, and officials. It links resources with community organizations such as libraries, senior citizens centers, genealogy groups and Apple Blossom. It is the primary living link between past and future generations of community builders.
The Museum educates and entertains public, private and homeschooled children by linking heritage items with current exhibits such as the in conjunction with the Wenatchee Dolls Club.
The Museum attracts tourists to the Valley. People travel from the Seattle area to see the popular “People of the Past” programs where actors describe their lives as historical figures wearing period clothing. The information is based on research, family information and historical artifacts. The public is able to ask questions of the actors. My wife has performed as an actor after which people talk to her as if she is the actual character she is portraying.
Families having reunions, businesses re-creating historical storefronts and researchers writing grants contact the Museum for help. The wait times are getting absurdly long. I was there when a man called wanting an historical map of the area 25 years ago for his high school reunion in two weeks. He was told he’d have to wait two months to get an answer from a volunteer.
The Board members and Director Brenda Abney are planning to increase donations and private income sources. They are building a permanent endowment fund. Since Abney arrived the fund grew from $200,000 to $500,000 by diverting donations and letting the fund draw interest.
“So, a $2 million endowment fund is feasible,” said Abney.
With Board leadership and a quality director like Abney, increased funding from Douglas and Chelan Counties and the Cities of East Wenatchee and Wenatchee could improve services and establish a base to raise more funds from services, donations, grants and research projects.