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Leadership changing at Raleigh City Museum

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Sherry Johnson

RALEIGH, N.C. – Dianne Davidian will step down at the end of August after two years as executive director of the Raleigh City Museum.

Under Davidian, the museum has increased its budget, created a modest operating reserve, increased the share of the budget provided by the city of Raleigh, and increased visitors, museum officials say.

“She has done a tremendous job for us,” says Brian Reece, board chairman. “She has taken us to an area where we are proud of financially. She has aligned us with good fundraising opportunities and exposed the museum to a new level of citizens in Raleigh. She has opened the doors for us.”

The search for successor is entering its final stages, Reece says, and the new executive director is expected to be at work in early September.

The museum, which opened in 1993 and now occupies the first floor of the historic Briggs Building on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh, has faced significant challenges in its 15-year history, primarily securing and retaining sufficient funding to support its mission and to maintain an appropriate staffing level.

Davidian joined the museum as director of external affairs in 2004.

In 2006, she became the museum’s chief fundraiser and, later that year, was named executive director, making a commitment to the board to remain for two years.

During her tenure, revenue grew to $350,000 in 2008-09 from $234,822 in 2004-05, and this year, for the first time, the museum budget includes a modest operating reserve of $40,000.

Davidian says she wishes she had been able to carve out more time to raise more money through grants.

Her tenure also saw an increase in the share of the museum budget contributed by the City of Raleigh, which now contributes 50 percent of the budget, up from 27 percent two years ago.

The number of visitors to the museum also has grown, totaling 18,000 so far in 2008, compared to 13,000 in 2006 and 22,000 in 2007, the year Fayetteville Street re-opened.

Staffing now totals three full-time and two part-time employees.

In March 2008, the Greater Raleigh Visitors Information Center opened at the museum.

And on Sept. 4, a major new exhibit, “The Media Revolution,” will open after more than $60,000 was raised from key donors.

Major sponsors of the exhibit are Curtis Media, Capitol Broadcasting Co., The News & Observer, and Julia and Frank Daniels.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and his wife, Annie McLaurin, are honorary co-chairs.

Key goals for the museum, Reece says, will be development of a five-year strategic plan, with a key element being a continuing increase in traffic to the museum.

One way to do that, he says, will be to present exhibits that include strong interactive components and offer “a first-class interactive cultural experience.”

Another long-term issue to address will be the museum’s eventual need for more room.

In its current setting, the museum is “full to the brim,” Davidian says, with 10,500 artifacts stored on site.

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