Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Should We Have To Pay To Visit Our Museums?

Last Thursday’s Alliance Times-Herald reported on a public discussion concerning the idea that the city should charge for entry to Sallow’s Military Museum and the Knight Museum & Sandhills Center.

Now I haven’t researched any annual visitor reports, I don’t know all the costs involved and I wasn’t able to attend the public meeting last week.  So initially, my lack of knowledge caused me to hesitate before sharing my opinion.
I thought about calling Becci at the Knight Museum or Ted at Sallows, to ask them a few questions and get a feel for what they thought about the idea of an entrance fee.  Then I could reread our article and talk to the reporter covering the story.  I might even be able to contact the city and get some more information from them.  Surely my available resources would allow me to present a more intelligent and informed opinion. 

Well, not only do I not have time to do all that, but I’ve also come to realize that an opinion doesn’t always have to be so qualified.  People don’t have to be experts to take part in a discussion.  Often a raw, gut feeling is just as important as a deep analysis or a politically correct speech.  After a long election season, I’ve had more than my fill of that.  And after all, I’m not trying to convince anyone to agree with me.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts with the hope that others might be inspired to form their own opinions.  Perhaps some will get involved by writing a letter to the editor, commenting on the blog or even by calling one of the museums to let them know how they feel.  And maybe, just maybe, we can limit the number of people that don’t say a word until it’s time to complain. 

So, here’s the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I heard about this possibility months ago and when I read our article last week.

Our citizens have put their blood, sweat, tears and hearts into creating and maintaining these wonderful museums for years.  Volunteers have given thousands of hours to help defer the costs and keep these facilities beautiful and inviting.  Every family has paid taxes for years to help build and maintain these museums.  Hundreds of fundraisers have been held and countless donations have been accepted.  And now, after all the money, all the hard work and all the sacrifice, we may have to pay to walk in the doors.

How would this affect our lower-income families?  How hard would it be for parents to say no to their kids when they want to enjoy our museums like the other kids?  And, what about the tourists we try so hard to attract?  One of the reasons we built these facilities was to show pride in our town and our people.  Do we really want to charge visitors to experience our pride? 

What if it was determined that the parks cost too much to water?  Would we need an annual park sticker?  What if our library needed a new roof?  Would we suddenly be charged a nickel to checkout a book?  What if our fountain was in need of repair?  Would tossing coins in the water no longer be a spontaneous gesture, but a required action to help pay for repairs? 

Probably not, considering these treasured amenities have been built and continue to be maintained by the community through our taxes, our fundraising efforts and our diligent, self-sacrificing army of volunteers.

Surely there are other places the city could cut back or other ways we can fund these facilities.

Your turn!  On November 18th, Museum Director Becci Thomas will present information regarding this idea to the City Council.  To have your ideas heard and/or opinions considered, contact Sallows Military Museum at 762-2385, the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center at 762-2384 or email

Have a great week and be sure to visit your local museums – and donate if you can!


  1. Perhaps they will consider resident and non-resident pricing if they decide to charge. In Maryland and Hawaii (and probably lots of other places) lots of tourist destinations have separate prices for those who already support the place through taxes.

  2. As a former city councilman during the time when both museums were in deliberation, and to make a long story short, the answer is absolutely NO.

    The idea of coming up with a so called "revenue stream" to help with the various maintenance costs involved with both museums, specifically in the case of the Knight Museum, was the brainchild of a particular city councilman who is still on the council and was voted down at the time. It should be voted down again.

    In the case of the Knight Museum, and in accordance with the Memo for Understanding signed both by the city and the Eldred Foundation, it was agreed that both entities would write grants for the various "traveling" art displays and in the case of the City of Alliance obtaining and and all grants it was agreed that whatever money received by the city in the form of any and all grant money, that money would first be spent on upkeep, maintenance and other related costs. Question, who is currently responsible for writing these proposed grants? Are they even being written? And if so, is the public being kept informed of the process and amounts?

    Both museums are the responsibility of the city and should be budgeted as such...plain and simple. Unfortunately, it appears as is the city continues to rely on good natured organizations to continue to staff (as is the case for the military museum) and to provide monetary assistance to the city for that staffing as well as to raise funds for both museums for various costs that should be the burden of the city and not for those organizations to continue to bear.

    We knew from the very beginning that one day the city would take possession of both museums, that they both would be assets to the city and that the city would someday bear the burden of the various costs of running the museums such as natural gas, electricity, increased staffing, traveling art displays, etc.

    Charging folks in any which way, with the only possible exception being a "free will" offering, as has been the custom at the both museums for quite sometime, would be a huge mistake.

    What a ridiculous idea.

    My question, who is writing the "grants"?

  3. Museums are usually open to the general public, sometimes charging an admission fee. Some museums are publicly funded and have free entrance, either permanently or on special days, e.g. once per week or year.

    Museums are usually not run for the purpose of making a profit, unlike private galleries which more often engage in the sale of objects. There are governmental museums, non-governmental or non-profit museums, and privately owned or family museums. Museums can be a reputable and generally trusted source of information about cultures and history.

    Definitions include: "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment, for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment", by the International Council of Museums; and "Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society," by the UK Museums Association.
    As Mr. Goodall eluded to "what was the original intent of Mr. and Mrs. Eldred's generous contribution to Alliance"? Instinct suggest they wanted to share and cultivate inspiration gained through education and pure enjoyment their gift to Alliance would promote. May they rest in peace knowing Alliance is doing right by their memory. Put this in context and respect their original purpose. Respect Mr. and Mrs. Eldred's children. Respect contributor's of Sallow's Military Museum. I believe for the sake and integrity of the people of Alliance that the city does not move forward without open communication with both museum founder's, specifically living family member's. We owe the family gratitude and respect. Without them we would not have these 'living' cultural attractions.


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