As the Riverside village board zeroed in on finalizing its 2006 budget during an Oct. 22 workshop, one proposal that didn’t make the final cut was a request from the Riverside Historical Commission to set aside $20,000 for a part-time director for the village’s Historical Museum.
According to Suzanne Bartholomew, who serves as the Historical Commission’s volunteer museum director, the new position would free up commissioners to do more research and plan exhibits while turning over day-to-day responsibilities at the museum to a professional.
“Part of it is that we have just an immense collection, one that’s spectacular, for a small museum,” Bartholomew said. “In the last 10 years, we’ve taken in an enormous number of items, all of them significant and directly related to the history of the village. We want people to use us more as a first line resource.”
For the past 35 years, the museum has been staffed by commission volunteers, and while the collection has grown, the commission faces the admittedly happy prospect of acquiring additional space next year, when the west well house in Centennial Park is converted into an exhibit gallery.
“We are so excited about [it],” Bartholomew said. “Because we’ll be able to have both a permanent and rotating exhibit gallery.”
A part-time museum director would not only have taken some of the burden off volunteer commissioners, but also would have allowed the museum to increase the number of hours it’s open to the public. The museum has traditionally been open only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.
But village trustees were wary about adding a permanent staff position, since it would put a strain on an already tight budget.
“This isn’t a one-time expenditure,” said Trustee Cindy Gustafson.
Instead, the board approved $10,000 in 2006 for the commission to hire an archivist to help maintain its collection.
“The onus is back on the commissioners,” Bartholomew said, “but we’ll certainly come up to the ready, as we always have done.”
Meanwhile, the commission will wait for repairs to the east well house, which has housed the Historical Museum for many years, to be completed. That could come as early as mid-November. The bulk of the museum’s collection remains in storage.
Work on the new exhibit space in the west well house will likely not be completed until next spring.