The Dearborn Historical Museum still has a long way to go before it is self-funded, but showed significant progress at a budget meeting held this week at .
The museum–which last year was charged with the eventual goal of operating independent of general fund subsidy–presented its five-year to City Council Wednesday, explaining its long-term improvement goals, revenue and cost-saving endeavors, and branding efforts.
In the first half of fiscal year 2011-2012 (through January 2012), the museum made $47,194.73 in revenue. This included memberships, eBay sales of extra artifacts, fees, donations, and proceeds from the sale of its book of residents' stories, Best Dearborn Stories.
Further cost-saving efforts were also put in place during the fiscal year, which the City Council commended the museum for.
"I applaud you guys for the work that you’ve done," said Councilman David Bazzy. "I see your demeanor and the enthusiasm … I think you’ll continue to be successful."
However, council questioned museum Director Kirt Gross, as well as Museum Guild of Dearborn volunteer leaders as to further plans to become profitable, given the quickly dwindling funds the museum has available.
The sale of the museum property to Andiamo's has left the museum with a funding pool, which now stands at just under $897,000. But with around $250,000 planned for each budget year leading into 2015, the museum will need to become self-sufficient by then.
Budgets for the next three years provide only $50,000 from the city's general subsidy, to be used for support of pension costs for retired employees of the department.
Councilmembers questioned whether museum leaders are exploring all of the options to make money to keep them afloat.
Council President Pro-Tem Suzanne Sareini suggested that the museum needs to define its purpose in order to better organize its path forward, and draw interest from visitors.
"It seems like your have an identity crisis," she commented. "To go forward, you need to define who you are, what you have and what your function is. You need to define that to the public."
Gross agreed, and said the museum's image is something they're working on–with help from .
"One of the problems we faced is that the museum suffered an identity crisis, and there are so many groups associated the museum," he said. "We’re trying to iron that out … so people understand if they’re donating to the museum.”
Council President Tom Tafelski suggested that they should look at moving toward a volunteer staffing model, overseen by the museum guild–and paid for by the guild, if necessary.
"If we were asked to support personnel costs … I’d have to say that’s part of our tasks," said Guild President Richard Danes. "We would find a way to do it. But this is the first year we’ve ever had to do fundraising efforts."
Tafelski commented that without a push from the city, he doesn't know that fundraising efforts would have begun at all.
"I think we would have been stuck with the same old, same old," he said.
Mayor Jack O'Reilly said he believes the museum's plan is a good one to move forward on–including further fundraising efforts, such as a second book and membership drives; as well as plans to renovate their office space to make it a more presentable display of museum artifacts.
“I think it’s a very reasonable plan and makes sense to get to the goal,” O'Reilly said.