Originally created 07/11/97

Museum officials seek to boost admissions



Between 40,000 and 45,000 people will visit the Augusta-Richmond County Museum this year, a decrease from last year's high traffic, said the museum's executive director.

Admissions will be down this year because so many people visited the new museum after it opened last year, and the post-opening excitement and novelty have worn off, said Scott Loehr, director.

So far this year, museum officials count 16,239 visits, most of which have been school children who arrive in groups.

"We're now seeing walk-in traffic, but not seeing as much as we should be seeing," Mr. Loehr told the board of trustees Thursday at their monthly meeting.

"Group participation is too high, and walk-ins are too low. Groups should comprise about 35 percent. Now it's more than double that."

Mr. Loehr hopes to increase walk-in traffic with events such as the Festival of Trees later this year.

Museum trustees also debated Mr. Loehr's recommendation of a collections management policy which included the procedure by which an artifact would be permanently removed from the museum's collection.

Under Mr. Loehr's proposal, he would recommend removal, and that recommendation would go before a three-member collections committee. If the committee approved, the artifact could be removed and disposed of "in an appropriate manner," such as placing it in another tax-exempt public institution by gift, transfer, exchange or sale.

Trustees Bob Young and Bonnie Ruben objected to allowing only three trustees to make those decisions and proposed allowing the full board to have the final say.

Ms. Ruben said each trustee has a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard museum assets and should not turn that duty over to a committee of three.

The board postponed action on the policy and will debate the issue further at next month's meeting.

In an unrelated issue, trustees voted unanimously to designate the board chairman and Mr. Loehr as official museum spokesmen. The other members may speak to the media, but should speak for background only with the understanding their names not be used in news articles or make it clear they are voicing their personal opinions only.

Mr. Young emphasized that the measure was not a gag order and that all trustees still retained their First Amendment rights to speak their minds.

When asked what prompted the measure, Board chairman Ray Rufo said the board wants to ensure that only two people articulate board policy. The board wants to head off future controversy and misunderstandings by implementing the policy, he said.