Raleigh City Museum reorganizes

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – Faced with the loss of a grant, a decline in its membership and a deadline for paying off its mortgage, the Raleigh City Museum has reorganized its staff and plans to seek bigger grants, secure ongoing support from the city, and sponsor a series of events to recruit members.

Dianne Davidian, who since July 2004 has worked for the museum on a contractual basis as director of external affairs, responsible for raising money, has been named executive director.

“The board has decided that that definitely needs to be a priority, that we need someone in a leadership position,” Davidian says.

For each of the two fiscal years that ended June 30, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation gave the museum $30,000 to pay for Davidian’s position, but the foundation did not renew the grant this year, she says.

To make funds available for the new position of executive director, Davidian says, the board decided to eliminate the position of curator, a job that has been held by Dusty Wescott and will end Oct. 21.

The board plans to hire a curator on a contractual basis through this December, Davidian says.

If additional funds become available before the end of 2006, she says, the museum may hire another curator.

After the museum told its two-person staff about the organizational changes, Ken Peters resigned as coordinator of education and outreach, effective Oct. 31, citing personal and professional reasons.

Davidian says the museum will fill that position on a full-time basis, and also will hire a part-time receptionist and information director.

In the fiscal year that began July 1, the museum’s operating budget totals $280,000, including $150,000 it has raised from private sources and $130,000 it has received from the city.

That compares to a budget of $254,000 the previous year, including $154,000 in private support and $100,000 from the city.

Revenue for the most recent fiscal year exceeded that of each of the three previous years, mainly because of sponsorships for the museum’s sports and recreation exhibit that opened July 29, when Fayetteville Street reopened.

Cash sponsorships for the exhibit totaled $41,500, including $20,000 in matching funds from the city.

“We do not have a deficit situation right now with our operating funds,’ Davidian says. “We obviously need to generate more income so that we can employ adequate staff for the museum.”

The museum, which owns 25 percent of the Briggs Building through a partnership that also includes the A.J. Fletcher Foundation and Preservation North Carolina, owes its two partners $140,000 for a mortgage.

With half that debt due at the end of this year, and half at the end of 2007, Davidian says, the museum is talking with its partners about possible options, including paying what is due, reducing its ownership share or renegotiating terms.

Davidian says she will continue to be responsible for fundraising, and will be seeking larger grants from public and private sources to reduce the museum’s debt.

That effort will include working with the Raleigh City Council to secure more support, a strategy she says city museums in other communities have successfully pursued.

“We’re going to focus more on the financial stability of the museum,” she says.

The museum also has seen its membership decline to 375 members from just over 400 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2005, with membership revenue falling to $38,000 from $47,000.

To boost membership, the museum plans a series of special exhibits and events, including:

* An exhibit in December, January and February to kick off the 150th anniversary of Peace College.

* A reception January 20 to kick off an exhibit on the Raleigh Hall of Fame.

* An exhibit in October on Raleigh’s sister city of Kingston upon Hull, England.

* A current exhibit on Oakwood Cemetery.

Davidian says a series of “friend-raisers” also are planned, with people hosting events at the museum or throughout the city to raise money for the organization.

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