A topic at the meeting Friday between the board of the county museum and the Hill County Commission was whether moving the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum back to the Hill County fairgrounds would be a good idea or even a possibility, with one member of the museum board coming out strongly against it.
Stay in mall until permanent facility is available
“I see no advantage to it, personally,” board member Gary Wilson told the commissioners. “I think we belong in the (Holiday Village) Mall until we have our permanent location.”
Museum board members, along with the chair of its funding foundation, Elaine Morse, and the archaeologist from Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump and its manager, John and Anna Brumley, talked about several issues with the commissioners Friday afternoon including the potential move.
Commissioner Kathy Bessette said the manager of the fairgrounds, Havre Mayor Tim Solomon, told her the space was available but that it would be a Great Northern Fair Board decision as to whether the museum could move back into the building.
Bessette urges museum board members to meet with fair board
She suggested that museum board members attend the next fair board meeting to discuss that issue.
The space in question, on the northern edge of the fairgrounds, housed the museum before it moved into the old federal post office on 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street. After the museum foundation was unable to continue paying for the lease, operations and upkeep of that building, the museum was moved to the Holiday Village. It now has been in that location six years.
Museum board Chair Bud Baldwin said the urgency of the issue has diminished. When the board was facing large cuts to its budget due to county revenue shortfalls, the money-saving opportunity was a much bigger issue.
Once the Clack family made a donation to help the museum through the year, the need for possibly moving the museum was greatly reduced, he said.
Clack family will help pay bills
Wilson said the Clack family has donated $4,000 and may contribute as much as $8,000 to help through the next two years.
Morse added that it would be better to make plans before the board has to go into panic mode.
“It’s better to sit down and have a plan,” she said.
Commissioner Jeff LaVoi asked how much the savings would help in building a new museum.
How will $800 help?
“How big a building would $800 a month build?” he asked. “Not very big, huh?”
Morse said the idea should be explored. The foundation endowment now pays the rent at the mall, but if the money could be saved, it could help the endowment grow more rapidly, she said. The $12,000 a year now used to pay for the museum and the foundation offices also could be used to upgrade the fairgrounds building.
Wilson said there are several drawbacks. One is that the space at the fairgrounds is smaller than the space in the mall, which would require more items going into storage. That would include finding space for artifacts now being stored in the basement of the mall, he added.
Another is the lack of heat at the fairgrounds building. That would require the museum shutting down in the winter, and in finding storage for items on display that need to be kept out of the cold.
Fears about damaging exhibits
Another is the damage to artifacts, Wilson said. He said he and former museum manager Antoinette “Toni” Hagener and others spent six months repairing damage artifacts suffered in the move to the mall.
A primary disadvantage, he added, is the loss of traffic and visitors to the museum The purpose of the county-owned museum is to educate. Moving to a low-traffic area and having to shut down during the winter would defeat that purpose, Wilson said.
John Brumley said the board needs to look at all options.
“I think you’re putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
Brumley said that, while there are advantages and disadvantages to moving to the fairgrounds, the board should explore every possibility on this issue and others.
“There’s a lot of things to look at,” he said, adding that many issues such as finding the location of a permanent home for the museum are in the preliminary stages.