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Transportation Museum plans $10 fee for adults

SPENCER — Visitors to the N.C. Transportation Museum will pay for admission starting July 1, when the state budget approved Wednesday mandates the museum begin its transition to a self-funded operation.
“The museum stands at a crossroad that may offer opportunities to continue its growth and maintain its valuable contribution to the region,” Elizabeth Smith, the museum’s executive director, said in a press release.
The museum will continue to be part of the Department of Cultural Resources, Division of State Historic Sites and Properties and will be run by the museum director with the assistance of division leadership. The museum staff will continue to be state employees. The most obvious change to the public will be the implementation of an admission charge to visit the site.
Admission fees will be $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and active military and $6 for children 3-12, all of which include the popular on-site train ride. Children 2 and under can always visit the museum and ride the train at no charge.
“Our effort has been to find a balance between raising the needed funds for museum operation, while minimizing the impact for our visitors. We think we have done just that,” museum spokesman Mark Brown said in the press release. “The admission charge represents a very nominal increase from what visitors have been paying for the on-site train ride for a number of years.”
Previously, the museum’s operating costs were funded through the state budget, at $1.2 million annually. The transition will keep the facility “open, operational and telling the story of the history of transportation in North Carolina,” the press release said.
The change in funding will take place over two years. The museum will raise half of its operational costs in fiscal year 2011-12 and the full amount in fiscal 2012-13. The site will still qualify for any available state construction and repair and renovation funding.
The museum will be structured as an “enterprise fund,” raising needed revenue through admission charges, special events, site rentals and other sources. Operational costs will be funded directly from the money collected. The USS Battleship North Carolina has successfully operated under a similar structure.
The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation will continue raising funds for renovation, special events and other needs. The foundation will also continue to operate the train ride and the museum’s gift shop, the Gift Station.
Museum volunteers will also continue to serve in rail operations, as historical interpreters of the museum collection, and helping to maintain and renovate items.
Smith said in the press release she is confident of the museum’s future success. “The dedicated staff and our large group of volunteers will be the reason we will succeed in this new endeavor,” she said.

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