Museum millage renewal will ‘Save our Stories’

The Monroe County Historical Museum and the Monroe County Museum System will be on the May 4 ballot for a millage renewal and increase. With this increased millage, the museum would increase community traffic and expand to have new climate-controlled facilities for artifacts (Photo by Delaney Vanover).

A museum is not made to only preserve and share the history of a community, but also to draw more people to the community and make history along the way.

10 years ago, the Monroe County Historical Museum was scheduled to shut down due to a lack of funding. On this upcoming May 4 election, the museum is on the ballot for the second time for a renewal of the millage that saved it a decade ago.

The Monroe County Museum System (MCMS) will have a spot on the election ballot for a millage renewal and increase. If this millage is passed, the museum will be allowed to levy .05 mills more than it can currently

The millage renewal will last 10 years, as it did when it was first on the ballot in 2012.

With this increase in revenue, the museum’s board and staff will be able to make progress on their 10-year plan.

The museum is currently authorized to levy .10 mills, which brings in a revenue of roughly $644,000. If the renewal and increase are passed, the museum can levy up to .15 mills, bringing in a total of $991,500 in the first year.

Andrew Clark, the director of the museum, said the biggest thing the museum is looking to do with the revenue is to upgrade the storage for the collections. With the constant expansion of the museum’s collections, there is a constant need for new and improved climate-controlled facilities.

Along with storage upgrades, Clark said he would also like to focus on enhancing the museum’s educational programs, modernize the exhibits and increase accessibility and inclusion on all of the sites.

Mike Humphries, Chairman of the “Save our Stories” campaign committee, said the campaign process has run the museum anywhere from $15,000-20,000.

The campaign process looks different now because of the pandemic, and that sometimes makes it more difficult to get the word out, Humphries said.

The Chair of the Monroe County Museum System Board of Trustees, Brian Egen, said COVID-19 was an obstacle that came in between communication of the museum and the people of Monroe County.

“The amount of absentee ballots that went out and people voting absentee is significantly higher,” Egen said. “So that meant that we had to get our campaign materials and start our campaign push a month ago when the absentee ballots started landing in people’s mailboxes. Many people will fill it out right then and turn it in.”

He said starting the final push a month early offers the team time to gain the outreach the campaign will need in order to garner enough votes.

Humphries said COVID-19 has affected his work on the campaign as he has not been able to meet with the voters face-to-face.

He said one of the demographics the team likes to meet with in person is the senior citizens of Monroe, but because of health concerns, they have not been permitted to visit any senior centers.

The lack of face-to-face contact has opened up more opportunities for digital marketing on social media.

Clark said the goal of the museum is to positively contribute to the quality of life of the community.

By using the revenue to improve the museum, it can become “A better place to live as well as a better destination for outside visitors to come and spend time in our community,” Clark said.

Humphries said the constant improvement of the quality of life for the people in Monroe leaves him eager to show the community what they have coming up within the next decade.

“We’re on a launchpad right now, and with this successful millage, we will be able to launch,” Egen said. “From now until the results come in, it’s our countdown from 10.”