Because of a major cutback in funding support from the Augusta/Richmond County Commission, the Augusta Museum of History, like so many other agencies, is making some hard decisions in order to create a balanced budget for 2010.
Staff positions have been cut; the museum store and the research facility are now closed; and days that the museum will be open have been reduced from six to four (the museum will be open from Thursday through Sunday). Each of them now is required to take unpaid furlough days each month.
I would like to plead to each person reading this column to come to the assistance of the museum and make that move very soon. Before I explain how you can help, let me give you a bit of good news.
Those of you who have visited the museum lately may have noticed the great amount of activity taking place on the second floor just above the beautiful rotunda. Under construction is a major new exhibit: "Celebrating a Grand Tradition: The Sport of Golf." Four historic golf courses in the local area are featured, as are rare and unusual artifacts from sources and collectors from around the world.
THE ARTIFACTS THAT are being assembled and the creative displays should make this a very special attraction for history buffs and golf enthusiasts from the CSRA and beyond. The Knox Foundation, E-Z-GO and the other contributors deserve a great big thank-you for both their generosity and their faith in the future of our museum. Just to clarify, money was raised outside the museum's operating budget for this specific exhibition. In other words, if the dollars had not been raised, there would have been no exhibit to attract visitors.
A special members only preview of "Celebrating a Grand Tradition: The Sport of Golf," will be held in March. Please put March 18 on your calendar. All museum members will be invited to what should be a grand event. I look forward to seeing you there. The public opening of the exhibit will be Friday, March 19.
Now, let me highlight some important aspects of the museum. With the opening of the extensive James Brown exhibit in 2008, attendance at the museum has increased significantly. With the new golf exhibit, even more people will be attracted to the museum. In 2009, 42,000 folks toured this award-winning facility. That is an especially impressive number in a down economy.
The history of Augusta on the first floor is especially interesting, but I strongly encourage everyone to tour the second floor. The James Brown exhibit and the present and future golf exhibits are on this floor. My favorite exhibit, "Two Ships and One Hero," which honors my wife's father, Jimmie Dyess, also is on the second floor.
How you can help? The answer is simple: Become members of your museum. For a family membership, make out a check for $60 and send it to the Augusta Museum of History, 560 Reynolds St., Augusta, GA 30901.
TO ENCOURAGE A surge in membership -- which is badly needed at this time -- there are a number of gifts being offered. Those who become members of the Museum in the month of February will receive the 60-minute DVD Twice a Hero: the Jimmie Dyess Story . This video highlights the life of Augusta's hero, Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. In that video there is a Today show interview, combat footage of the battle where Dyess was killed and interviews with Medal of Honor recipients. The retail price of this DVD is $14.95, but you will get it for free by becoming a member at the family level ($60).
The museum will also will give you the poster, "Typical Scenes in Augusta, Georgia, During the 1880s." These gifts are being made to help grow the membership above the present level of 700.
Finally, there is one other gift opportunity: Those who make a major contribution ($250 and greater) also will receive a copy of Medal of Honor recipient's Jack Jacobs book If Not Now, When? Col. Jacobs, who visited Augusta twice last year, is a visiting professor at West Point and serves as a military analyst for NBC. Containing no profanity, this autobiography of the most remarkable people I know is a perfect gift for a young person interested in the military or in history.
Finally, since I love the museum so much and want to help in any way I can, one final gift is offered: For those who donate at the $1,000 level, I will take them out to lunch and give them a personal tour of the museum.
For the list of all available gifts, please visit the museum's Web site for information.
(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, serves on a number of non-profit boards, including for the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and the Augusta Museum of History.)