Looking for a Sugar Daddy (or Momma)
The Historical Museum Guide for Alabama lists fifty-seven different historical museums and sites in the state on its website. Fifty-six of them operate out of their own property. Only one of them leases space in an office building – can you guess which one? That’s right; it’s the Birmingham History Center. For the past three years, we have been renting @ 5,000 square feet at the back of the Young and Vann Building. These years have been good ones. We built a museum that gets outstanding reviews. We’ve added to an impressive collection of local artifacts. This space has been a good first step. But now, like a recent graduate, we are ready to move on. We need a building we can call our own. We are busting at the seams and we need to expand. But times are tough for non-profits. Capital campaigns do not do well in recessions. In the tradition of the great philanthropists in American History, we need someone to give us a building.
What could we do with our own building you ask? Here are our three basic needs:
1. Artifact Storage – we currently only have about 800 square feet for storage. As we are collecting three additional artifacts each week, by this time next year we will have 150 more artifacts (many larger than a bread box) than we have now. We do not know where we are going to put them.
2. Programming – we currently only have room to put about 15 chairs together. We cannot even sit a class of students down in one space. We cannot invite speakers; we have no place for them to stand. We cannot show films. We do not have space for hands-on activities. We have to hold special events in the hallway and pay a rental fee to our landlord. I, for one, am tired of signing a rent check every month when I know that money could be used to create programming for students in Jefferson County.
3. Exhibits – We only have room to show a small percentage of our collection. We are limited by space to a small number of featured stories. We have no space to bring in traveling or temporary exhibits.
So Mr. or Ms. Sugar, our needs are simple. Find us a sturdy building downtown in the historic district; say 15 – 20,000 square feet, near some public parking. It should have some open spaces, not too many windows and a nice mahogany-walled office suite for the executive director (I guess that last one is optional). Buy it for us and take a nice tax deduction. We will name it after you. How does the Birmingham History Center at the John Smith Building sound? Too much? How about the Jane Smith Magic City Exhibit Gallery? It is your chance to be immortal. It is your chance to put us on par with every other history museum in Alabama. Please be our Sugar Daddy (or Momma).