Senate budget effects will close museums and historic sites

Published 10:36 am Friday, May 27, 2011

The proposed Senate budget for 2011-2013 would close two state history museums and a number of historic sites.

“These closures will represent a blow to cultural and heritage tourism, jeopardize history education, and will impede economic development at many locations,” said one museum enthusiast.

The proposed Senate budget will close the six-year-old Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City and the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex in Fayetteville, an important Civil War Sesquicentennial destination.

Significant reductions in the funding of Tryon Palace in New Bern will reduce hours and service to the public, beginning in July of 2011, and will result in its closing to the public in fiscal year 2012-13. The History Center opened in 2010, was developed as a public-private partnership, and has attracted visitors from 48 states in just seven months. More than 140,000 visitors from across North Carolina and out of state will come to Tryon Palace and the History Center by June 30, 2011. Those visitors create an annual economic impact on the region of more than $41 million.

Budget cuts to state historic sites will result in a number of site closings, reduced operations at many sites and the loss of many jobs. Special events and programming are already funded privately, with significant contributions of time and resources from the local community and volunteers.

The budget cuts will be devastating to many communities and the state:

● Historic sites and history museums are the answer for cultural and heritage travelers, who boost the economy in both urban and rural areas.

●Cultural and heritage tourism is a vital component of the state’s important $17 billion tourism industry.

● Visitation trends are up for sites and museums

● The budget reductions mean North Carolina will miss the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to capitalize upon Civil War 150 interest.

● Visitors today are looking for authentic culture and history and make it a priority in their travels.

● These closings will impact tens of thousands of schoolchildren annually

No final decisions have been made about which historic sites would close. The closings will impact every area of the state. It is likely that the following sites would be the most seriously impacted:

Possible closing: Alamance Battleground; Aycock Birthplace; Fort Dobbs; Historic Bath; Historic Stagville; House in the Horseshoe; President James K. Polk site; and Vance Birthplace.

Severely impacted: Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum; Fort Fisher; Historic Halifax; Horne Creek Farm; Reed Gold Mine; and the State Capitol.

“It is not the desire of the Department of Cultural Resources to implement such drastic cuts. We hope, with your support, to avoid this drastic action,” said Thomas Spagnol, Communication Specialist with the Museum of the Albemarle. “Since legislative leaders have said the sate budget is on a fast track, it is important to contact both your local Senator and key Senate leadership today to voice your position on this far-reaching budget reduction.”

Key Senators include:

Sen. Phil Berger (Guilford, Rockingham), President Pro Tempore, (919) 733-5708

Sen. Peter Brunstetter (Forsyth), Appropriations Co-Chair, (919) 733-7850

Sen. Neal Hunt (Wake), Appropriations Co-Chair, (919) 733-5850

Sen. Richard Stevens (Wake), Appropriations Co-Chair, (919) 733-5653

Sen. Tom Apodaca (Buncombe, Henderson, Polk), Appropriations Vice Chair, (919) 733-5745

Sen. Linda Garrou (Forsyth), Appropriations Vice Chair, (919) 733-5620

Sen. Andrew C. Brock (Davie, Rowan) General Government Appropriations Co-Chair, (919) 715-0690

Sen. Jim Davis (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Transylvania) General Government Appropriations Co-Chair, (919) 733-5875

“Your efforts today will have lasting impact. It has taken years to create the strong cultural and heritage network, and it can be undone with this budget,” Spagnol concluded.