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Jul 20, 2010 9:27 PM by Ariel Wesler

Local museums feel impacts of stubborn economy

Some exist to teach and inspire while others are around to preserve pieces of history, but our museums are not immune to the harsh economy. They rely on a significant amount of fundraising and public support.

The Museum of Flight is the home of aviation history in Santa Maria, but in its 26th year, it's come across some turbulent times.

"We're all volunteer so we don't have people to do grant writing, nor do we have endowments," said Curator Mike Geddy.

He says the number of visitors is actually up but with fewer sponsorships and less community support, he has his work cut out for him finding new sources of funding.

"My job is not supposed to be full-time. I'm putting in 18 hour days," Geddy said.

While some museums are struggling to hang on, the Discovery Museum has been relatively sucessful. It says these days, the key to funraising is creativity.

A girl recently won a poster contest--a joint venture between the Discovery Museum and A La Carte home accessories. Kids made posters advertising an upcoming sale, where ten percent of the proceeds will benefit the museum.

"Marketing and PR is how it's done. . .if they do that for philanthropic reasons, but also because it makes good sense for their business, that's great," said Discovery Museum Executive Director Kathy White O'Neill.

Two employees have been laid off due to budget cuts but as the only children's musuem in Santa Barbara County, closing was never an option.

"We have just developed some wonderful relationships with prior donors and new donors. Our membership is up. Admission into the museum is up," White O'Neill said.

And in some cases, museums touch more than just the visitors who walk through them.

"It helps us deal with our own pain and suffering from being in combat. A lot of guys say jeez at least I feel like I'm productive and I've got something to be proud of," Geddy said.

The Santa Maria Historical Society just announced it is also receiving less funding due to city budget cuts. It's teaming up with PCPA Theaterfest to hold its first "Reception, Silent Auction, and Performance."

For more information on how you can donate or contribute to local museums, click on the links below.

Museum of Flight

Discovery Museum

Santa Maria Historical Society


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