Charlotte Museum of History Closing
It’s been nearly a week since the announcement of the Charlotte Museum of History’s suspension of operations, and the comments that the development elicited online are worth reviewing. All of us involved in cultural heritage collections can learn something from the support as well as the criticism that online discussions express.
Within a day of the report on the institution’s closure, the Charlotte Observer article received 43 responses. Several folks lamented the closing and a few wished for public funding to sustain the institution. Other responders took a firm stance that cultural institutions must be privately supported and that the worthy institutions will survive on donations and revenues or big business sponsorships. One theme various comments addressed was that the Alexander House is worth preserving–not only as the oldest local building but also as one of the few historic buildings left in the Charlotte area, which was completely transformed by urban renewal efforts during the 1970s.
Criticisms of the CMH business plan included high admission fees, infrequent event rentals, lack of emphasis on the historic Alexander house, poor governance, and inopportune timing of the closure–given the summer season and the fall Democratic National Convention. Another criticism that popped up several times was “multi-cultural” programming at the institution. According to one responder, “Charlotte’s real history was packed away so the community could have chinese exhibits.”
Michael Solander, a blogger for Charlotte’s “Creative Loafing” site wrote in strong support of the city maintaining a history museum: The museum, the Alexander House, and the artifact collections “remind us we’re a city with a story and a heritage that is worth preserving and celebrating. The lives and life’s work of all who came before us deserve to be remembered, documented and studied…American cities are losing their identities and individuality. Real history and its artifacts are worth fighting for. Preservation efforts that help distinguish our community are everyone’s responsibility.”
Most readers of this blog likely agree with Solander and continue to fight the good fight for cultural heritage preservation. Yet, we also know the uphill battle we face all too often…
Perhaps the Charlotte Museum of History will regroup in the months ahead and transform itself into a site of community engagement. Perhaps the organization will forge partnerships with private groups that will allow tours of the Alexander House and its preservation to continue. Because most of our cultural heritage institutions–whether privately, locally, or state supported–survive precariously, whatever happens there can be instructive for us all.