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New Transportation Museum director named

SPENCER — The N.C. Transportation Museum today announced the appointment of Samuel J. Wegner as the museum’s new executive director.
Wegner succeeds longtime director Elizabeth Smith, who retired Dec. 1.
Wegner, a native of Idaho, has held leadership positions with museums and historic sites for more than 34 years.
His service includes experience with historic site systems in both Missouri and North Dakota, as well as museums in Wisconsin, Oregon and Virginia. He most recently served as a vice-president of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources operates the transportation museum.
“We are delighted to have Mr. Wegner at the helm of this museum at this point in its history,” Keith Hardison, director for the Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, said in a press release. “His experience, leadership, and ability to engage staff, volunteers and the community will bring focus, progress and enhanced support for the institution during this critical transition period.
“I look forward to working with him to insure the continued vitality and growth of this institution.”
With staff cut by a third and a 25 percent drop in visitors, the museum faces an uncertain future where the Spencer icon must act more like a business to survive.
Attendance has plummeted since the museum started charging admission in July, after the state cut in half $1 million in annual funding. Walking into the museum, which opened in 1983, had always been free.
To save money, the museum has eliminated seven positions, including four layoffs. Once staffed by 18 full-time employees, the facility will operate in 2012 with just 11, including Wegner.
The museum is located at 411 S. Salisbury Avenue in Spencer and is open to the public on a regular schedule. For more information, call 704-636-2889.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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