The organization that runs Stonewall Jackson’s house as a Lexington, VA museum is in the process of turning it over to Virginia Military Institute, according to the Post. As you might have guessed, this lousy economy has a lot to do with it:
In May, the foundation approached VMI about acquiring the historic house as a way to protect the building and its collections, which the foundation purchased in 1994. Foundation executive director Michael Lynn said the Jackson House, as well as other small museums, are facing difficult times with the downturn in the economy and fewer visitors.
“This is the best possible solution for the long-term viability of the museum,” she said. “Surveys always show a high level of visitor satisfaction with the museum but there just are not enough of them coming.”
I’d imagine this is a difficult decision, but it’s also a sensible one. I’ve worked at two museums which were parts of much larger entities, a university in one case and a county government in the other. For all the frustrations that can come with operating a museum as a department of a bigger entity, it has definite advantages.
I’ve always compared it to the difference between living on your own and being a younger child in a big family. If you’ve got your own place, you don’t have to wait in line for the bathroom and you can crank the TV up as loud as you please…but you also have to keep yourself in the black, or you’ll be out on the street. The third child in a big family has to learn to play nice with his siblings, but he’s pretty sure there will be food on the table tomorrow.
Since this economic mess has so many independent museums closing their doors, entity-within-an-entity museums can sometimes have a sort of relative security that free-standing museums don’t. I emphasize relative, of course, because plenty of entity-with-an-entity museums are facing an uncertain feature these days, too.
I hate to learn that the Stonewall Jackson Foundation is in a bind, since they’ve done a fantastic job of interpreting the site, but it’s good to know that VMI is willing to step in. The house is a wonderful place to see. Here’s a review that I posted last summer, in case you’re interested.