I had the great fortune of meeting with Lisa Evans, the Executive Director of the Saint Albans Museum. She offered me a tour of this wonderful place.
This is an Historical Society museum. What does that mean? An Historical Society preserves its area’s history. Oftentimes, they are the keepers of the objects, too. The Society is formed by like-minded people who understand the importance of knowing and remembering the past and preserving it for future generations. And this is a labor of love.
Managing a museum is no small feat. Lisa’s position is part time and she is the only employee. There are about 25 regular volunteers, which is fantastic for the museum.
They have a store AND THEY ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS! What do they carry you may wonder. Books on the history of St. Albans people and events. These are well-priced. I found a quill pen for a buck. They have postcards available for sale. The price is very reasonable. Other items include t-shirts, mugs, a 150th anniversary commemorative calendar of the St. Albans Raid and so much more!
From Their Website:
“The Saint Albans Historical Society was founded in 1966 by a committee of area leaders and volunteers who were interested in preserving and sharing our community heritage. Early meetings featured lectures and slide presentations in member’s homes. The Franklin County Museum (later the St. Albans Historical Society & Museum, and now simply the Saint Albans Museum) opened in 1971 in the former Church Street Academy building. Over the years, our non-profit organization has developed into an award-winning museum, with seasonal exhibits and year-round educational and public programming. The Saint Albans Museum celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016.
Our mission is to collect and preserve historical and cultural material relevant to our community, and to display and interpret selected material from the collections for the education and enjoyment of the public.
SAM is currently open for the 2022 season! We are open Wednesday and Friday from 11 AM – 4 PM and Saturday 10 AM – 2 PM. Closures due to weather will be announced on our Facebook page.
We are also reflecting/responding to the Black Lives Matter movement with a recommitment to diversity and inclusion in our exhibitions, publications, and research… As part of these initiatives, we recently launched our newest traveling exhibit, Untold Stories, Unheard Voices…[There is a digital version of this exhibit on their website.]”-https://www.stamuseum.org/
“The Saint Albans Museum normally is open from May to October, but after closing in fall 2019, it didn’t reopen again until July of this year. File photo by Shaun Robinson/VTDigger
The Saint Albans Museum, one of the city’s main cultural institutions, is “hanging by a thread,” its executive director told St. Albans officials at a meeting Monday night.
Lisa Evans said the museum has had a deficit for years and needs a host of repairs to its 1861 building. There are hundreds of thousands of items in its collection in storage areas that lack adequate temperature control, putting those items at risk, she said.
Even if financial challenges for the local history museum aren’t new, Evans said, they have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The museum normally is open from May to October, but after closing in fall 2019, it didn’t reopen again until July of this year.
On Monday, Evans asked the St. Albans City Council to allocate $25,000 for the museum in the upcoming fiscal year, up from the $17,500 it allocated this year.
She also plans to ask St. Albans Town for the same amount of money, she said.
Evans told city officials the museum would put its additional funding toward building repairs, improving its exhibitions and putting on new programs, among other uses. Overall, she said she hopes these improvements will attract new members and visitors.
The museum operates on a $175,000 budget, which is the “bare minimum” it needs to run the building and pay her part-time salary, Evans said. She is the museum’s only employee and was hired in June after serving as interim director.
“We’ve done everything we can to cut down on cost,” she said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “Without a proper full-time staff member on payroll, we’re forced to reduce the number of events and programs that we’ve been able to deliver.”
It’s no secret that museums continue to struggle across the country. A survey last month by the American Alliance of Museums found that almost one in three museums remain closed because of the pandemic, The New York Times reported, and most of those have not reopened since initially shutting down.
The Saint Albans Museum relies on 25 regular volunteers to help manage the museum, give tours and design exhibits, among other tasks, Evans said. She estimated that these volunteers have worked about 3,500 total hours at the museum this year.
Volunteers often pay for supplies out of pocket, Evans said. For instance, she recently learned some volunteers chipped in personally to get a security system installed.
Evans said donations from the community have been crucial to keeping the museum from shutting down during the pandemic. The museum has received some grant money but still needs additional funding to address issues with its aging building, she said.
“While we’re clearly fortunate to have such strong supporters,” Evans said, “this is in no way a sustainable financial model.”
Overall, she said building repairs and upgrades have been estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A major issue is that the building lacks heating or cooling, so visitors sometimes have to be turned away on days when the temperatures are more extreme.
Evans also wants to put money toward making the museum’s telling of regional history more inclusive. This year, the museum created its first-ever exhibit on local Black history, which is a set of mobile panels currently on display at St. Albans City Hall.
The museum’s other exhibits focus largely on the city’s railroad and military history, as well as the history of wealthy, white families in the area.
At Monday’s meeting, city officials suggested allocating some of St. Albans’ American Rescue Plan Act funding to the museum as well as considering new uses for its third-floor event space, which is called the Bliss Room.
Evans told city officials she thinks funding from local governments is a leg up but is only part of what’s needed to help the museum succeed.
“This is in no way a handout that we’re looking for from the city or from the town,” she said in an interview. “There’s so much that the museum can do for the community, for St. Albans and for the surrounding area.””-https://vtdigger.org/2021/12/19/saint-albans-museum-hanging-by-a-thread-director-says/