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Museums need visitors

Residents, leaders look for ways to generate interest

Staff writer

Getting more activity at museums in Hillsboro would be the first step in generating interest that could allow for new projects and renovations, a group of interested city and rural residents said in a meeting Feb. 16.

City council member Kevin Suderman said he remembered spending a day in the old schoolhouse as part of “Adobe Days” at the Adobe House Museum — now named the Peter Paul Loewen House — while he was in elementary school.

Hillsboro Elementary School Principal Evan Yoder said something like that could get students interested in Hillsboro’s history, and that could create interest among parents and grandparents. He said returning the schoolhouse to good condition would be among the least expensive museum projects the city could undertake.

Hillsboro resident Steve Stafford said the local home school group would probably love a field trip to the one-room schoolhouse. Activity at the museums is the key to preventing their deterioration, several residents said.

About 35 people gathered for the town hall meeting to discuss the museums’ status and direction. City Administrator Larry Paine refuted rumors that the city planned to shut down the museums. However, the city did eliminate a paid museum director position Jan. 1 as part of budget cuts.

Hillsboro’s museums cost between $50,000 and $60,000 a year to operate and generate between $1,000 and $2,000 a year in revenue, Paine said. It is exceedingly rare that museums don’t operate at a loss, he said.

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One museum project the city could undertake is moving the Bartel House from north of town into town. The Bartel House is a stone house, typical of the early architecture north of Hillsboro and distinctly different from the early houses south of town. Mayor Delores Dalke said settlement north of town is inadequately portrayed in the city’s museums.

The city has about $36,000 in a trust from the Bartel family to move the house to town and make it a museum, but the project would cost between $100,000 and $150,000, Paine said.

Tabor College professor Aleen Ratzlaff made the suggestion of a smaller project, perhaps constructing an exhibit of the Bartel House in another museum without reconstructing the entire house.

Last modified Feb. 23, 2011

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