With its funds drying up, the Effingham Museum and Living History Site in Springfield faced the very real possibility of closing before the end of this year.
“Just a couple of months ago, funding was so short for the museum that I was told they would only be able to keep the doors open through October or November without additional support,” said Rick Lott, executive director of the Effingham Chamber of Commerce.
Due to the county’s budget constraints, funding the museum previously received from the Effingham County Board of Commissioners is no longer available. That has strapped the museum to meet its basic operating needs, according to Historic Effingham Society President Norma Jean Morgan.
“Funding for our HES museum is critical,” she said. “Membership dues alone are not enough to pay basic operation expenses of staff to man the museum and provide tours and services as we have offered in the past.”
Fortunately, the Effingham Museum and Living History Site has gotten a reprieve, thanks to the Historic Effingham Society’s Save the Museum campaign.
Several HES members, and a few local businesses, have donated money to the campaign, Morgan said. Also, the organization hosted a spaghetti lunch in September that raised approximately $1,600 for the museum.
The Effingham Chamber’s tourism committee is teaming with the Historic Effingham Society to contact potential corporate sponsors. So far, Planters Telephone has made a contribution and Enmark and Coca-Cola have pledged their support, according to Morgan.
“We have been able to secure a few key sponsorships that will enable the museum to remain open through the winter at least,” Lott said. “We really need others to step up and help keep this vital piece of Effingham history and tourism alive.”
One benefit the HES is seeing from the donations is expanding the museum’s hours, after temporarily having to cut them. The museum is now open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Visits after hours, on Saturday or Sunday are still by appointment only.
The HES hosts a number of educational programs for school classes, senior groups, tourists and others. Morgan said the museum and living history site welcomes “visitors from almost every state in the union” each year for drop-in visits, educational programs and community events such as the Olde Effingham Days festival.
“Many of our guests are families that have moved away over time and return for a family reunion or come by during a family vacation. Some people come looking to connect with their family roots,” Morgan said. “We prepare for our future by learning from our past.”
As the Chamber looks to attract more tourists to Effingham County, support for the museum is more important than ever, according to Lott.
“Saving the Museum and the Living History site is about as important as it gets when you talk about the history of our area and when you consider the efforts of the Chamber and others in the county to promote and build tourism,” Lott said. “We are at the very beginning of a professional effort to bring visitors in to see our historic sites and our other attractions, and we can’t lose one of our two existing museum properties.”
For more information about the Effingham Museum and Living History Site, call 754-2170 or visit www.historiceffinghamsociety.org.