By Tim Eberly
Three years ago, the H. Earl Clack Museum was transplanted from the Hill County Fairgrounds to the Heritage Center with the purpose of staying open year-round. But on Oct. 8, members of the Clack Museum Board voted 4-1 to close the nonprofit museum for the winter, starting Nov. 1.
"The reason we moved from the fairgrounds to the Heritage Center was to have a year-round operation," said museum board chairman Lou Lucke, who was opposed to the closing the museum. "And now we're going back to a nine-month operation. We might as well have stayed at the fairgrounds. But, on the other hand, we have no money and insufficient volunteers to keep the museum running."
The museum was open four months a year when it was at the fairgrounds.
Money, or a lack thereof, also has been a nagging problem for the Clack Museum Foundation Board. In recent months, the foundation board has struggled to make lease payments to the city and raise funds for the Heritage Center's overhead. Board members also failed to notice that its lease with the city of Havre had expired in late August and is now negotiating a new lease for the Heritage Center.
The museum's hibernation period will be well spent. Former curators Toni Hagener and Elinor Clack, whose husband, Louis, is the nephew of H. Earl Clack, intend to study artifacts donated or loaned to the museum in order to incorporate them into existing museum collections.
"We've pretty much given them carte blanche to do whatever they want with the museum," Lucke said of Hagener and Clack. "Seeing as they were both curators, they know more than the board members what could be done with the museum."
The pair also plan to take a detailed inventory and conditional appraisal of all the art in the museum's possession partly because a costly William Standing drawing was stolen and subsequently returned to the museum within the last two months.
"They're going to reinventory everything, make sure they're all there, see who owns what and what's on loan," Lucke said. "It's something that just needs to be done but the painting theft probably gave a little impetus to it."
Hagener and Clack also plan to revamp the displays to more accurately follow the growth of Hill County from inception to the present.
"The original plan was to have the time sequence go counter-clockwise around the museum," Lucke said. "And it simply didn't get finished. There was just a lot of incomplete work that the previous curator didn't have enough time to do."
An antique Coke machine and wagon, along with stuffed animals and a "variety of things," according to Lucke, still need to be transported from the fairgrounds to the Heritage Center.
No exact date has been set for the spring opening of the museum, but the board members will hold a meeting this winter to settle the issue.
"We'll decide that when we find out about our reorganization and when we find out what our budget's going to be," Lucke said.
Upon reopening, the museum should be more aesthetically pleasing to the eye but will also include an expanded lecture season.
"We had as many as we had planned, but they seem to be very popular, so we'll be trying to get more next year," Lucke said.