By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The lion's share of the H. Earl Clack museum was moved from the city-owned Heritage Center to the Holiday Village Shopping Center last Friday and Saturday, but the mouse's share will need to be moved this weekend, and now the pressure is on.
The first leg of the move was delayed one week, and the county museum board is up against a hard deadline of Wednesday to clear out. The Havre City Council said it does not want to pay for heating the building, which is listed for sale, past that date. H. Earl Clack Museum Board chairman Ron VandenBoom said he has told the mayor the museum will be out in time.
"It looks fairly empty," Clack Foundation vice president Gary Wilson said earlier this week. Left in the museum are the dioramas created by famed Montana artist Bob Scriver and the Chief Joseph display, as well as foundation holdings that will all need to be moved this weekend.
"I think there's quite a bit of emotion on the part of the entire board," VandenBoom said. "The Heritage Center was our home for eight years and it was a beautiful backdrop for the museum."
The city bought the Heritage Center, a former federal courthouse and post office, from the U.S. Postal Service in 1996 with $89,600 in federal highway funds. The Clack Foundation, a private group dedicated to supporting the museum, leased and managed the building until July 1, when it said it could not afford to continue.
In September, the city received permission from the Montana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to sell the building, and it began to advertise it in newspapers across the state. The city gave the museum until Nov. 1 to move out, but then said the museum had until Dec. 1. The museum has paid rent only through Nov. 1.
During the same time, the museum encountered obstacles getting into its new location in the mall. The lease with the mall passed through five revisions and was not signed until Nov. 1. Afterward, VandenBoom spent more than 10 days with volunteers from the museum and foundation preparing the new site, painting and doing carpentry work.
"Organized chaos," Vandenboom said.
The museum and foundation members have committed to clearer plans for the next leg.
"The dioramas are too delicate to be manhandled," VandenBoom said. He added that the Chief Joseph display will have to be disassembled.
There to help with the move Saturday was the museum's first curator, former Hill County Commissioner and former legislator Toni Hagener. VandenBoom plans to rely on her for help.
"Toni is an icon among the museum committee," VandenBoom said. "The amount of knowledge and wisdom she has regarding displays .... It's an invaluable asset that we do tap, and that we are tapping now."
The museum has signed a three-year lease for a spot in the mall. Though the board eventually wants to have a permanent home in a new building on county property, VandenBoom said the museum might remain there for five or 10 years.
VandenBoom said the mall location has many benefits, including increased foot traffic and better sales potential, as well as proximity to Wahkpa Chu'gn Bison Kill Site, which is part of the county museum.
The new monthly rent is $800 plus utilities. Without the support of the Clack Foundation, the museum - with $23,800 left in its budget - would have lasted six months, VandenBoom said.
Two weeks ago, the Clack Foundation pledged a grant of $600 a month to help the museum pay operating costs. In addition, the foundation will rent an adjoining space at the mall for its offices.
VandenBoom said that space may also be used for the museum's gift shop, so that the two rooms the museum has leased can be devoted exclusively to exhibits.
In a rummage sale about three weeks ago, the foundation raised $2,500, selling off tables, chairs and tools that it would not need at the mall. In addition, a quilt was raffled.