A reduction in state funding is forcing the Michigan Historical Museum and the Library of Michigan to charge fees on formerly free services.
The Michigan Historical Museum began charging admissions in October.
The admissions fee is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, and an optional $2 fee for youth. Children five years and under get in free.
An annual pass allows unlimited visits to the museum as well as a 10 percent discount at the Museum Store. It costs $40 for an individual and $50 for a household.
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The museum does not have plans to raise admission fees in the near future, said Director Sandra Clark. The admission fees provide a very small part of the museum budget, she said.
“Charging admissions is part of a long-term strategy to diversify funding of the Michigan Historical Center and its programs,” said Clark. “Twenty-five years ago, we were supported entirely by the state.”
“Our goal is to expand our support to private donations and earned income. This is part of the earned income strategy that also includes museum stores, on-line sales of copies of archival materials, and charging for services and special programs,” she said.
The Library of Michigan will remain free of charge although it is located the in the same building as the museum, said Don Todaro, Assistant Director at the Library of Michigan.
“It is not typical for a library to charge admission, but we charge for services such as printing and conferences that people hold within our building,” said Todaro.
The library was losing money from charging 10 cents per copy, now they charge 25 cents. This fee is enough to cover paper and computer charges, he said.
The state gives the Library of Michigan general revenue funds—the main source for state departments, said Todaro.
The museum’s admission charge has not affected the number of visitors at the Library of Michigan because they are separate departments, he said.
In 2009, the Department of History, Arts & Libraries was abolished and the Michigan Historical Center was divided into different administrative departments, said Laura Ashlee, Public Relations and Outreach Officer for the State Historic Preservation Office.
“When I first came here in 1998, we had well over one hundred staff members,” said Torado. “More recently, our staff went from about 80 staff members down to 32 in just seven years time,” he said.
The administrative organizational structure of the library has changed. They have centralized things such as Human Resources and Information Technology, said Torado.
Another department affected by cutbacks was business services. The librarian staff was cut in half.
“Almost two years ago, the state was talking about eliminating the library altogether and giving the collection to Michigan State University,” said Torado.
Fortunately for the remaining staff, that fell through, he said.
The Michigan Historical Museum has suffered similar financial burdens.
In the fall of 2010 the Lansing museum lost one quarter of its staff, including half of our supervisors, to layoffs and early retirements, said Clark.
“Now we have 36 permanent state employees who manage the Archives of Michigan, the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing and 10 museums and historic sites across the state,” said Clark. “We have approximately 60 active volunteers in the Michigan Historical Center here in Lansing.”
With the help of local communities, historical sites can be rightfully preserved.
“The best way for the community to get involved in preserving historical sites is to establish local historic districts,” said Ashlee. “This would require an ordinance to protect historical buildings or identification of the parts of the community worth preserving.”
Another way for the community to be active in preservation is to become involved with a statewide non-profit organization called the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, she said.