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!