Spencer museum’s 5-year plan goes before state lawmakers

  • Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:30 p.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 12:45 a.m.

SALISBURY — Officials are scheduled to report today to state lawmakers on the future of the troubled N.C. Transportation Museum.

The Department of Cultural Resources, now led by former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, will present the museum’s five-year business at 8:30 a.m. to the N.C. General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee for General Government.

The state-mandated plan will detail several options for keeping the museum open, including turning it over to a private group.

The N.C. General Assembly has required three state historic sites — the Spencer museum, Tryon Palace and Roanoke Island Festival Park — to complete studies to determine the best model for operation. Privatization is one model the sites were required to analyze in their five-year plans.

The Spencer museum is struggling to stay afloat. The museum’s new executive director, Sam Wegner, stepped down in December on the last day of his probationary period.

His departure left the museum without a CEO at a crucial time. The state has cut the museum’s yearly allocation from $1 million to $300,000, forcing the facility to slash its budget and charge admission for the first time since it opened in 1983.

In the past two years, the museum’s staff has been cut in half to nine employees.

Karin Cochran, the new chief deputy secretary for the Department of Cultural Resources, and Dr. Kevin Cherry, the new deputy secretary and a former public history librarian at the Rowan Public Library, are scheduled to present the five-year plans for the transportation museum and Tryon Palace.

Petr Spurney, a museum and cultural institution consultant in Washington D.C., was hired to conduct the study of the Spencer museum. James Meacham, executive director for Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, served on Spurney’s committee.

Meacham told the Post in December that his organization’s support for the museum — one of the top tourist attractions in Rowan County — hasn’t faltered.

“We still believe the museum is vital for tourism,” Meacham said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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