Home News Local News Museum’s plans for renovations spark debate

Museum’s plans for renovations spark debate

A renovated gift shop at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, shown in this conceptual drawing by Huitt Zollars, could boost both visitor experience and revenues, according to museum staff. (Submitted Graphic)

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How does the city of Roswell continue to enhance its 84-year-old museum, one of only 21 accredited museums in the state?

The discussion at a city meeting Wednesday brought board of trustees and museum foundation members of the Roswell Museum and Art Center to listen and debate ideas.

The informational session at the General Services Committee provided an overview of museum operations and a look at future plans, including several desired renovation projects.

The discussion took place in the context of ongoing pressure by some city councilors to increase income-generating programs and projects at certain city entities, including the museum, the Spring River Zoo and city recreation programs.

It also followed a recent City Council vote to determine which of the numerous capital projects on the city’s “to-do” list would be included on the city’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan. Those projects are eligible for state funding if legislators choose to appropriate money for them.

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A museum project to renovate the gift shop and front lobby and create a new family interactive gallery originally came to city councilors as No. 2 on the top-five priority ICIP list; but, after debate, it was removed from the top-five rank, although remaining on the ICIP.

At times, the discussion became a bit tense, with Committee Chair Savino Sanchez asking people to remain respectful in their conversation.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck, who had argued at the September City Council meeting that the museum project should not be on the top-five priority list, was the focus of many questions and comments.

He was repeatedly asked how much money he thought a museum should make and questioned why he thought a city museum should be seen as a profit-making enterprise rather than a service to the public.

“In some ways, as a city councilor, our most fundamental job is to use the resources that belong to our citizens as best as we can,” Roebuck said. “It is a very difficult task because there are so many things in the city and the resources are limited.”

While he had many compliments for the museum staff, the quality of its exhibitions and programs, its community partnerships, its strategic planning process and its current revenue-generation efforts, he also said that his analysis indicated that the city is paying $25 for every visit the museum has in a year, which was derived by taking the $1.25 million a year the city budgets for the museum, the revenue generated by the museum itself, and the museum’s annual 34,000 visits.

“We don’t want cost-recovery so that we can make more money,” he said. “We want cost-recovery so that we can invest more in the museum.”

Caroline Brooks, executive director of the RMAC, and others pointed out that the museum should not be judged only from a business perspective. Brooks said it also has a legal obligation to preserve artwork on behalf of the public trust. Others pointed out that is one of the few free educational enrichment attractions for families in the city. A curator for the museum also said that its current exhibits and program reflect what the community has asked for over the years.

Brooks said that she thinks a key to increasing revenues is to enhance the gift shop, which she said is already doing well but could do even better after the $1.23 million renovation project to move the store to the lobby area in a space designed for retail operations. Brooks estimated that the museum foundation could raise, probably, about $400,000 of the project amount.

The project is also seen as a way to make the existing lobby more welcoming and visually appealing and to expand children’s educational and art experiences through the new family interactive gallery, which would go into the spot vacated by the gift shop.

Other future capital projects, to take place over the next eight to 10 years, include expanding and modernizing the Robert H. Goddard exhibit and expanding and renovating the collections storage area, which could include a portion that was made visible to the public.

No action was taken at the meeting, and Administrative Services Director Juan Fuentes recommended talking with City Manager Joe Neeb about how the gift shop and lobby project might proceed in the near future.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.