After several meetings and a few disagreements, it looks as if the Madison County Historical Society, the City of Madison and Madison County have reached an agreement that will enable the Madison museum to be open about three hours a day.
The county, which regularly contributes about $15,000 annually to the historical society, wants to have the museum open regular hours again — instead of only by appointment — as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, the Madison County Board of Commissioners voted to continue providing the $15,000, with the historical society able to use it on certain expenses. Specifically, the commissioners wanted the funds to go toward items that promote the history of the county. At times, funding over such things as model train repairs has been a source of disagreement. The museum’s model trains are owned privately and serve as an attraction but are perhaps lacking in a strong historical tie to the county.
Marilyn Moyer, treasurer of the Madison County Historical Society, told the county board that hopes are that the museum will be open three hours a day. She also shared plans to convert the gift shop into an area where people could conduct genealogical research, such as on a person’s family tree.
The museum shares space in a building that also houses Madison’s city offices and its public library. Plans call for the City of Madison and the historical society to hire the worker. Other plans include improving the museum’s displays, with funds already designated for that.
Commissioner Ron Schmidt, who has been representing the county at meetings during the museum funding discussions, said he doesn’t believe the county wants to dictate the museum’s operations. The county supports the historical society but not the railroad group’s trains, he said. But if the historical society believes the presence of the trains helps bring visitors to the museum, that is the society’s prerogative, he said.
We agree. With auditors checking how funds are spent, the commissioners are right to be cautious. Besides, with more competition than ever for tax dollars and the county having a seemingly endless need for road projects, the county board is trying to account for every dollar spent.
Schmidt said the county would like to see the museum work to become self-sufficient, whether that be through fundraising, applying for grants or admission charges. Such a transition could be gradual with the goal of, hopefully, reducing the county’s contribution each year.
Again, we believe this is an excellent goal. Perhaps with the publicity that the museum has attracted this summer, there will be renewed interest. That includes both visitors and people willing to join the historical society so that future generations will be able to view the county’s history.