Friday, July 17, 2009

Editorial: State should back out completely

The unnamed Courier editor kites the idea that if the state won't fund Sharlot Hall Museum, it should give up ownership to an organization that will. It's a fair point in principle, but is that really the outcome we want? I don't think so. The museum offers greater value than its parochial local-curio and tourist-attraction aspects, and stepping it down from a successful professional organization into the hands of well-meaning local amateurs (where it started) would not bode well for its long-term future, even if it does continue to tick over in the short term.

I recognize that the editor may be exercising this logic to evoke exactly this thought process. But he also may just be reverting to his habit of seeing government involvement as bad, as the headline implies.

The positive response is to stand up for our important institutions when the legislature is making bad choices. The museum clearly deserves an unrelenting and vigorous defense.

Update: in response to BearWhizBeer: I checked. The museum is a small state agency by special legislation, and its staff is paid by the state.


BearWhizBeer said...

So the people who run sharlot hall now are government employees? If so, you have a point.

I think one key issue is ownership of the land, which becomes the most important asset here if we can't find funds to run the place.

What do you bet that there are several local developers that would love to get their hands on it?

Steven Ayres said...

It's a good point. The Prescott Historical Society has historically been state-funded, but not by any means exclusively, and while the website ( isn't explicit, it and experience tell me that it's legally an independent nonprofit. I expect it's a little more complex than that, but if it's true it makes the editor's argument a bit silly. It also may explain why downstate legislators feel so free to cut the funding.

As for the redevelopment idea, maybe I'm being naive, but I really can't imagine that scenario in practical reality. The museum may mostly close, but no one will bulldoze it and the cost of moving it would be far greater than running it for years on half time or even mothballing it until the situation changes. Kinda like the National Museum of Iraq, maybe.