Don’t museums already get government funding? Although a few organizations get indirect support, most of our local museums are operated by small nonprofit organizations who have to fundraise or sell services in order to stay afloat, with little or no paid staff, and even fewer professionally trained staff.
Times are tight. Why not wait until the county has more money to spare? Many organizations can do that. Unfortunately, if a museum (and its buildings and collections) is abandoned, you can’t always get it back. That’s why this field is called “preservation”. What’s not preserved will be lost. If you feel like gambling, please buy us a lottery ticket! We don’t want to take that chance.
Isn’t that what foundations and grantors do? No. Foundations and grantors provide funds for short term projects and improvements, but not for sustainability issues like staffing, maintenance, and facilities. The History Hub will continue to leverage such resources on behalf of local organizations.
Shouldn’t county Tourism fund this? By current law, tourism can only fund those projects that directly influence overnight stays in Clackamas County. While they can and do provide grants for short term tourism-related projects and improvements (see above), they are not able to fund the goals of historic preservation for the sake of local residents, researchers, and future tourists. Besides, as we have seen in 2020, Tourism money comes and goes. Stable, dedicated money is needed to form ongoing support for excellent historic preservation and interpretation.
Are there other organizations that use this funding model? So glad you asked! Yes! Your local library is funded this way. Their system is tailored to the needs of book distribution through city-sponsored buildings, but the money is collected through a tax levy similar to the one we’re proposing.
Who will be in charge of this money? An elected board with expertise in local history and nonprofit management will make the big decisions about History Hub policies and procedures. History Hub staff (experts in museums, nonprofit management, and marketing) will distribute funds according to those policies.
Are there other Oregon counties using this model? The short answer is “not yet”. Multnomah County supports the Oregon Historical Society and four smaller museums with a five-year renewable levy, but not with a Heritage District. Tax-based support has funded excellent historic museums in areas with much less interesting history than ours. Here at the end of the Oregon Trail, we could be doing much more, and the Oregon legislature has provided this way to do it. Once again, we need to be the pioneers.