Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Museums at risk


State cuts could affect Germantown Colony

During a time of budget tightening, many museums under the Secretary of State's control are looking over their shoulders.

One of those may be the Germantown Colony and Museum.

Earlier this month the Advocate of Baton Rouge reported Secretary of State Tom Schedler slowly is shifting attractions in far-flung corners of the state into the hands of local groups.

"I'm not anti-museums. I'm just being practical," Schedler said to the Advocate. "Downsizing our museum portfolio should stabilize the financial future of the Old State Capitol and the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum."

With 17 museums to fund during a budget crunch, he said he does not want to give up all of the museums under his control, just the ones in which local solutions can be reached.

"These are very nice facilities," Schedler said. "But, quite frankly, it's a difficult process of keeping them open."

Lynn Dorsey, Executive director for Webster Parish Tourism and Visitors Bureau, is not worried about the future of the local museum under Schedler's care.

"Plans for a climate controlled area are still underway and what funding was still needed has been secured," she said. "I feel the Germantown Museum will stay with the state because of that, and because we have not heard otherwise from them."

However, Friends of Germantown Colony Museum member and Webster Parish Historian John Agan feels there are still questions to be answered.

"The Secretary of State's museum system is relatively new. It was the brainchild of Jay Dardenne who was dedicated to the concept and expanded and advanced the system. Once he became Lt. Gov. and head of the more established Louisiana State Museum system, the SOS museums were on shaky ground," Agan said. "It seems clear in the current political climate where the public has indicated they don't see the dedication of tax funds to promote and advance historic preservation and culture as good stewardship of the funds, any public institutions relying on that source of funding are in trouble."

After trying to contact officials in Baton Rouge, Agan still has questions.

"Currently, I have heard nothing from the state as to the status of Germantown," he said. "Secretary Schedler indicated in his remarks that some museums might remain under the system, but no details were provided.

"Perhaps Germantown is intended to remain under the state, but as indicated, I think the writing is on the wall that our future probably needs to be based in private funding," he continued. "The Friends of Germantown and the other Advisory Board members will decide what that means. But we have seen a small local museum, Dorcheat Museum, thrive and grow under solid local private control. Probably Germantown needs to look to that model."

Both Agan and Dorsey think former representative Jean Doerge's work in securing more than $300,000 of appropriated funds for historical preservation in Webster Parish will be what saves the museum.

"We will be hoping to find more solid information about our future, soon, but want to keep the public informed about our current and future situation," Agan said.






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