Historic sites that are subdivisions of larger organizations or institutions are often left languishing due to the utter neglect of the powers that be. But there is something far, far worse than the utter neglect of the powers that be, and that’s the attention of the powers that be.
As a case in point, consider a recent news item out of North Carolina.
RALEIGH — The North Carolina legislature is conducting a sweeping review of the state’s attractions – from museums and parks to the state fair and the zoo – to determine whether they should be combined under a single agency and whether their staffing, hours and admissions fees should be adjusted.
The legislature’s study, which is scheduled to be released in March, follows budget cuts this summer that forced some state-owned tourist attractions to cut hours or special programs, lay off workers and increase admission fees. It has many working at the sites worried about their future.
Sounds pretty ominous, but the prospect of laying off a bunch of public employees actually has State Sen. Andrew Brock kind of excited. I’ll let him tell it.
“I’m kind of excited about the evaluation of some our museums and sites,” said Brock, who is chairman of the Senate appropriations committee overseeing general government.
Now, don’t get the impression that they’re targeting all the fine cultural attractions North Carolina has to offer. Some of them are doing a—what’s the word he’s looking for here…
Brock said that while some attractions “are doing a fantastic job” and deserve more state funding…
That’s it! Some of them are doing a fantastic job, just absolutely fantastic, but…
…while some attractions “are doing a fantastic job” and deserve more state funding, there are others that need closer scrutiny.
“We’ve got some others, you’ve got 100 people on staff, you’ve got few visitors and only a few volunteers,” Brock said. “Are people sitting around not doing anything? Are we paying for positions and nobody has a real job? Those are the ones we will have to take a good hard look at. Some of them, to be honest, we have to make sure it was not political patronage over the years.”
Can’t have people on the payroll just “sitting around not doing anything.” Can’t fund something that isn’t “a real job.” Not that Brock is disrespecting state employees, or anything.
Brock cited Tryon Palace in New Bern, a pet of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, as an example of a historic site that might be overstaffed. The palace is a replica of the home of Royal Governor William Tryon, originally built in 1770. The palace, which recently opened a history center, drew 172,264 people during the fiscal year ending June 30. (Department of Cultural Resources officials said the Tryon Palace complex, which includes 41 buildings and had 85 employees when the history center opened in October 2010, now has 59 employees. That number is scheduled to be reduced to 31 employees unless funding is restored in the next budget year.
Right. Some governor wants to reward a guy who worked on his campaign, so he gets him a job as a part-time tour guide at a historic house museum. I’m sure that’s what happened.
Among other things, Brock said, the study will look at whether some sites should have shorter or different hours, should charge higher fees and should offer gifts and other services to defray costs.
“We are not going to get rid of our history,” Brock said. “But we may limit their hours, how many days they’re open and also look at their expenses while they are open.”
We’re not going to get rid of our history. We might make it darn near impossible for people to get access to it, but we’re not going to get rid of it.