Cumberland Museum and Archives opened in 1981. Photo by Scott Strasser.

Cumberland Museum and Archives requests $50,000 in extra funding from the Village

The Cumberland Museum and Archives is asking for $50,000 more in annual funding from the Village, which would help contribute to staffing needs and facility upgrades.

The museum’s executive director, Michelle Willard, presented the request at a Village council meeting on Nov. 27.

A charitable foundation (which the museum’s staff asked to remain unnamed in the media) is providing $10,000 to the Cumberland Museum and Archives next year to recreate an existing gallery.

The same foundation is also considering granting $80,000 over two years to the museum’s database migration project, which will transfer its collections and archives to a searchable online database.

Willard told council on Monday that the grant funding from the charity foundation provides a chance for the museum to increase its impact on the community while addressing other issues as well. The extra funding from the Village would go towards staffing capacity and management of the foundation’s funded projects.

“This recent funding opportunity from the [foundation] is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that comes at a critical time for the museum,” she said.

“Really, this is every museum director’s dream — to see the museum grow, expand, and to develop the exhibits, archives, and collections to a higher standard.”

Her presentation suggested that the extra funding could come from Cumberland’s Community Grants Program and be accompanied by a five-year service agreement. The museum received $21,500 from the Community Grants Program in 2017.

The museum is currently funded by both its own revenue sources, including admission and store sales, as well as grants from philanthropists, foundations, governments and other organizations.

In need of funding:

Despite the incoming grant funding, the museum’s budget is still expecting large operating deficits for the next two years. The museum is projecting a $57,000 deficit in 2018 and a $54,000 deficit in 2019.

“The museum has reached a critical trajectory where staffing capacity needs and related operational costs have outgrown its current operating budget,” said Willard.

She said the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system is a concern, and that there are flooding issues in the museum’s lower levels. The Village owns the building that the museum is located in.

“The latest flooding occurred on [Nov. 25] and it was the latest in a recent series of floods,” she told council. “The lower level of the museum contains valuable, irreplaceable maps on the walls that detail the mine’s workings.

“There is also storage for collections on the lower level that is at risk.”

Willard said the storage space for archives is currently inadequate and located in rooms with no temperature control. She added that the building also needs new electrical upgrades and flooring.

The Cumberland Museum and Archives opened in 1981. The facility is open year-round and offers 40 exhibits, a store, research services, after-school programs, heritage events, guided tours, films, video kiosks and a replica coal mine.

Roughly 6,000 people visited the museum in 2016 and more than 5,000 attended museum-sponsored events.

Willard said the economic and social impact of museums makes the $50,000 in extra funding a worthy investment.

“The Cumberland Museum and Archives has proven itself to be an innovative community hub,” she said. “The museum has expended great efforts to transform despite its building issues, lack of staffing or dependable resources.”

“It is important to recognize that transformations like these have costs.”

Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said Village council will discuss the funding request at its next meeting on Dec. 11.

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