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Dearborn Historical Museum Officials Plan For Future, Ask For More Funding

“I want to make it into a viable museum,” says acting Director Jack Tate. “Something the city is proud of.”

Coming out of dire straights in 2012, leadership of the Dearborn Historical Museum are asking Dearborn City Council for five years and some monetary help to make the keeper of Dearborn's history one of the city's greatest assets.

Acting museum Director Jack Tate this month presented the city with the Dearborn Historical Museum’s five-year plan, which was made with the assistance of the Michigan Historical Society.

The plan includes the development of new fundraising programs, resurrection of defunct ones, an audit of the museum’s inventory, and a plan for renovation and reorganization of the museum’s properties.

“It’s an aggressive plan, and I’m going to stick with it,” said Tate, who is retired and currently runs the museum pro bono. “I’m enthusiastic about the museum and Dearborn’s history. I love the place, and with the help of the administration and council, I want to make it into a viable museum—something the city is proud of.”

City, museum begin discussions on funding increase

Last year, the city had to the museum department going forward. It was a decision that sparked its downsizing to just two part-time paid employees, and reduced hours of operation. But it also had the museum's future in mind—including major repairs and renovations needed at the Commandant's Quarters, McFadden-Ross House and museum offices.

At that time, city officials asked museum supporters to prove that they could be fiscally responsible before asking for capital improvement funds.

Council President Tom Tafelksi expressed concern at a recent meeting that the museum isn't there yet.

“What I’m worried about is that we’re not breaking even,” he said.

The five-year plan also asks the city for an annual operational subsidy of around $200,000, starting July 1 with fiscal year 2014—a request council members weren't thrilled to see.

“I appreciate the fact that you’re coming now,” Councilman David Bazzy said of the request for an increase in funding. “But you want $200,000. … Tell me how you’re going to use it. What’s the plan?”

Tate maintains the museum cannot expect to raise the funding to operate at the capacity needed to serve members and guests on its own. Within five years, he said, they expect to bring in $75,000-$100,000 per year.

According to Tate, the city charged the museum with generating $72,000 by the end of FY 2013.

“I don’t think we’re going to make that,” he said, adding that the number would likely be closer to $50,000 in revenue. “A lot of that had to do with the controversy last spring.”

That revenue includes $15,876 in membership payments and donations, funds made at events, as well as proceeds from the sale of the two volumes of Best Dearborn Stories—books of residents’ stories compiled and published by the Museum Guild of Dearborn.

Tate said they anticipate putting out a new bid request on the vacant lot owned by the museum on the corner of Brady and Michigan Avenue. Though a previous request yielded no potential buyers, Tate said he hopes the city’s new train station—set to be completed this year—will generate more interest in nearby property.

The five-year plan also details that the museum is in the process of applying for grants.

Museum works to inventory goods, plan programs

In the meantime, Tate said, museum staff and dozens of volunteers are working to develop more programs and exhibits, as well as audit the department’s some 72,000 items.

A total of 300 have been inventoried so far. The expectation is to deaccession duplicates or unneeded items, and tag and store the rest.

The museum aims, over the next few years, to develop at least 12 exhibits, activities and events to invite the public in and raise funds for the museum—as well as accomplish the ultimate goal, which is to keep Dearborn’s history alive.

In the immediate future, this will include reviving the museum’s family-friendly Teddy Bear Picnic in June, as well as launching a paid exhibit on the history of Dearborn high school sports.

In the future, Tate said the hope is to develop and grow bigger fundraisers—such as a golf outing.

But fundraising takes time, planning, and the effort of those dedicated to preserving and continuing the spread of knowledge about Dearborn’s history. Tate believes the museum can do it, but not without the city’s help and patience.

“I’m doing everything I can to bring support back in,” Tate said. “It isn’t going to happen in one year.”

Want to get involved with the Dearborn Historical Museum? Visit their website at www.thedhm.com.

Pam February 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Does the bloated entertainment complex on Greenfield and Michigan Avenue "break even"? How about the Recreation Department itself, Homecoming, or any number of non-essential things this city has funded?
Rachel L February 21, 2013 at 01:20 PM
I would be SO pumped to see the Teddy Bear Picnic come back... I have very fond memories of attending for many years as a kid. I'd love to take my kids to that! If I werent' already swamped, I'd be up for volunteering to bring back some of the old programs. I was part of an "American Girls Club" there, based on the popular dolls, and we would put on plays and have meetings to discuss history and all sorts of fun.
laplateau February 21, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Pam...I think all the costs you mentioned would be a moot point it were not for O'Reilly's insistence on buying a new building for the City Hall. That cost us 3.2 million. That doesn't even touch on the costs of the improvements and reconstruction within the new building, or the moving costs, equaling maybe 2-3 more million. Plus, hizzoner says we are selling the present city hall to Art Space, a non-profit organization. That means that many of their dollars through grants….meaning the taxpayers The present City Hall is built like a brick you-know-what, but as you are probably aware, if you sell a building in Dearborn a certificate of occupancy must be obtained before the new owner can move in. In most all cases, that means the present owner has to bring everything up to existing building code. That would then mean hundreds of thousands more from the city’s coffers....or would the mayor would simply waive that requirement for himself and passing the onus onto the new owner… Art Space. Remember, it was O’Reilly that said in late 2011 that we had to raise city charter millage rate cap to save our current level of services. Then months later, he announces his plans to but the new building. Lied to and hoodwinked again….O’Reilly has to go!
City of Dearborn (Editor) February 21, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Do girls these days still play with American Girls? I'm surprised I wasn't a part of that club, Rachel. The Teddy Bear Picnic is a definite yes for this June - watch for upcoming details!
John Orischak February 21, 2013 at 05:02 PM
How bout tying all of thexe historical structures together under The Henry Ford? Besides the Rouge Tour, add on the Mcfadden house, co mmander quarters and even the ford mansion? Buses could drop people off from The Henry Ford to these other hisrorical sights and walk or trolley between them? Part of the HF admission fee cod help fund
laplateau February 21, 2013 at 06:18 PM
John...that's an excellant idea.
Patti Mack February 21, 2013 at 07:29 PM
I love it when a large span of city residents respond to things like this ... it definitely makes me happy to see involvement ... plus, so many can "think out side of the box" ... simple solution by John ... wonder if it's ever been thought of?
Shawn Morasco February 21, 2013 at 10:17 PM
I like that idea! Awesome:)
John Orischak February 22, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Everyone, sorry for the typos. I was fat fingering on my new phone. Seriously though, The Henry Ford draws visitors from worldwide. We have a huge population of visitors coming into our city for the Henry Ford, why not tap into these visitors and show our other historical buildings that sit just outside the The Henry Ford, yet still in Henry Fords hometown. The Ford mansion, Mcfadden-Ross house, Commandants Quarters, Dearborn Inn, even those concrete arches over the railroad tracks in the surrounding area are all pieces of Henry Fords life many of us locals take for granted, but visitors would love to experience and learn more about. I would think The Henry Ford would jump at the chance to expand its offerings in exchange for keeping these treasures intact. It's not about money, its about opportunities ! This may be the exposure West Dearborn needs to help open businesses and help to keep existing ones thrive.
Lee Jacobsen February 22, 2013 at 04:22 AM
John's suggestion of combining historical interests in Dearborn is a good one, and I wonder what the reason is that has prevented it from becoming reality. The train station will allow folk from all over the state to see Dearborn's historical jewels. All that needs to be worked out is the matter of financing , who pays for what.
Michael D. Albano February 22, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Many of the ideas on here may work and help save our Historical Museums - The Commandant's HQ and McFadden-Ross House. Let's also hope that the new Transportation Center users also help increase traffic and visitors to our museums. They are certainly worth saving.
edward binkley March 31, 2013 at 09:58 PM
But if I win the mayor position plan to purchase old dearborn music building and turn that into the new dearborn historical museum campus so we can make funds. hopefully enough to build the diner on the corner of brady and michigan ave bark covered house cafe open 24 hours with photos of the city of dearborn and the staff in period costumes and guess no parking meters here..

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