Historical Society Facing Budget Problems

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Even before the recession, the Ohio Historical Society had to deal with tough budget decisions. But executive director Bill Laidlaw says no one could have predicted what they’re facing now.

“A year ago we could see some of this coming,” Laidlaw said. “We just didn’t anticipate that the recession would hit and that the cuts would be so deep.”

Several sites had to be closed two additional days a week after budget reductions in 2008. With a 1 point 3 million dollar reduction slated for the 2010 budget, Laidlaw says even bigger changes are going to have to happen.

“We’ve got a really good plan, I think, for providing services that will provide the most public value, that will be targeted for the major market segments that we serve the most, and that will allow us to raise some general revenue funds so that we can continue our effort to be less dependant on the state in the future,” Laidlaw said.

The plan will shift the focus to three “core functions” collections and sites preservation, access for research and education, and statewide outreach.

It will extend hours at the archives, and create exhibits that will travel around the state. But it also means 18 sites and museums may have to close.

“That’s the catch,” Laidlaw said. “There’s not enough money in the budget. Even if we reallocated everything in the state budget, there’s not enough money to keep the sites operating the way they should.”

The Historical society is currently working with communities and private organizations to create local partnership agreements. Daily operations would then be the responsibility of the local partner with the society providing support.

Laidlaw says they currently have enough funding to operate the sites only through the end of June, but that he is optimistic the partnerships will work.