Friday, November 7, 2008

Before You Start A Museum, Read This.

We've written previously about the closing of COSI Toledo (here and here) and the issue of sustaining a museum once it opens.

I'm happy to report that on the third try, the voters of Lucas County have passed a 5 year tax levy to provide support (read cold hard cash) to COSI Toledo.

This gives the fine folks at COSI Toledo (that's the current name, but it sounds like that might change soon, as they distance themselves from COSI Columbus) a little breathing room to restart and continue building ties to the local businesses and schools.

However, this tax levy brings up a dirty little secret about museums: they don't, or can't, generally support themselves on earned income --- museums need constant infusions of cash (via endowments, tax levies, generous donors, government grants, or winning lottery tickets.)

Well, o.k., the lottery tickets are a slight exageration, but really the odds of starting a museum that continues to grow, expand, and thrive (as opposed to constantly struggling and becoming shabby) strictly on earned revenue, are high odds indeed.

That's the part of the story that never comes up when the feasibility documents with the rosy budget and attendance figures are passed around. That doesn't mean that new museums shouldn't get created, but you better make sure your source(s) of outside cash are firmly in place.

What do you think? Should anyone try to start (or restart!) a new museum in today's economic climate? Let us know in the "Comments Section" below.

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