Museum hopes to add director, but needs funding


The Dubois County Museum would like to hire a director, which would be its first full-time, paid employee since the museum opened 20 years ago.

But since the museum does not generate enough money for the position, museum officials are asking the county to cover the cost for two years.

Members of the museum board asked the Dubois County Commissioners Monday to consider contributing $50,000 each year for two years.

“We want to make sure we are around for years to come,” said Amy Weyer, the museum board’s president. “But we have a financial problem.”

The museum started in 1999 and was housed in the Gramelspacher-Gutzweiler building on Main Street. It moved to its current location, the former Jasper Corporation building on Newton Street, in 2004.

It has 50,000 square feet of exhibit space and 41,850 artifacts in its collection. Five hundred members pay an annual membership fee. In 2018, there were 9,399 visitors to the museum; the goal is to get to 10,000, board member Mary Ann Hayes said.

Up until three years ago, the museum was free. Now it costs $5 for an adult to enter. While it does generate some revenue, “we wish it would bring in more,” Hayes said.

Some space in the museum’s building is rented out, and that helps with the building’s expenses, in particular the utility expense, Hayes said.

The museum is facing other challenges as well. The building itself needs a new roof, and a fundraising effort is ongoing for that. Also, volunteers who keep the museum running are getting older. The museum would like to focus on bringing more young people in as volunteers as well as raise money to cover the museum’s expenses.

“We need to go to the next level,” board member Bill Weikert said, “but we will need assistance.”

A main focus of the director would be fundraising, Weyer said, including finding grants and other revenue to cover the director’s salary in the future.

“This is our history, our heritage,” Weyer said. “We would love for this to be our legacy (for future generations).”

The commissioners said they will consider the request as they go through their 2019 budget proposal. The county museum is one of several nonprofit organizations to which the commissioners contribute an annual allocation.

“My challenge is that there are a lot of nonprofits that we don’t give money to,” Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said, “and they do good work for the county.”

Commissioner Nick Hostetter echoed the same sentiment. “But,” he added, “I understand the importance of this.”

The commissioners asked if the board requested any funding from any of the municipalities in the county. Weyer said the plan was to start with the county.

“We came to the county first because we consider the museum to be a county asset,” Weikert said at the end of the conversation.

Commissioner Elmer Brames said he would support helping the museum with the endeavor, but requested that the museum board also talk to the communities about contributing.

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