Pennsylvania Civil War museum fights back

August 8, 2014

More than a week after Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Eric Papenfuse attacked the city’s National Civil War Museum  as a financial drain on the city and asked county commissioners to stop giving the museum funds intended for tourism promotion for Harrisburg, museums officials struck back Friday.

According to a story posted by PennLive,  the museum’s board president, Richard Seitz, and chief executive Wayne Motts asked to meet with PennLive’s editorial board Friday, where they refuted Papenfuse’s claims that the city was losing money on the museum because it paid only $1 a year in rent, the building was costly to maintain and few visitors came through its doors.

Papenfuse used those arguments before the Dauphin County commissioners on July 31 in an attempt to have the county designate the city as the recipient for the entire $500,000 marketing fund instead of having the majority of it going to the museum as it does now.

At Friday’s meeting, museum officials pointed out that the state and not the city paid for the building and that the city provides no money to the museum. They also said the city has not reimbursed the museum for $150,000 already spent for necessary capital improvements and repairs in the past five years, even though the lease agreement requires the city to cover those costs.

According to the story, museum officials said the operation more than pays for itself, “by generating more than $5.7 million in direct economic impact to the area,” and a formula devised by Tourism Economics showed “day visitors spend $111 per day and overnight visitors spend $265 per day.”

As to the museum’s drop in attendance, the officials said museums nationwide had all had trouble attracting visitors during the recent Recession.

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