Museum board eyes improvements, storage

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Ongoing efforts to spruce up the Beaverhead County Museum and the Old Depot Theatre are paying off, with increased attendance and gift shop sales.

Museum Executive Director Candi Whitworth told the museum board last week that attendance is up considerably over the past couple of years, though some of that may have been pent up demand from the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown.

“The increase in visitors is noticeable,” she said at the July 21 board meeting. “I’m really excited over how many visitors we’ve had.”

Whitworth said roughly 700 people have visited the museum from June 15 to July 21; 2019’s May to August visitor total was

417, and 2020 had 627. She added she has not finished adding up May and June’s attendance, and the museum still has through Labor Day before it closes its doors for the winter.

Gift shop sales are booming, and Whitworth said she had to reorder more products to stock the shelves.

Whitworth said she recently had the windows and carpets cleaned in the Depot, and board members have been volunteering their time to help clean up and spruce up the facilities. Some of that includes watering flowers at the gazebo. Going forward, Whitworth said she wants to install drip irrigation for planters around the facilities to make it easier on volunteers trying to keep the plant life alive.

Staff has also been working to update and catalog all arti facts to ensure the information is correct, as the facility is in dire need of reviewing those artifacts and dealing with stuffed storage space.

The board approved some artifacts for “deaccession” at prior meetings, which were determined not to fit in the museum’s collection. Board member Donna Jones noted family members who donated one of the caribou heads that was deaccessioned agreed to take it back, and will do so as soon as the paperwork can be finalized. Also, the museum in Twin Bridges is ready and willing to take one of the larger Dr. Seidensticker artifacts for its museum, which is taking up already tight space in the storage unit the museum is renting.

Whitworth said the board needs to work through those ar tifacts and determine which are still relevant for the museum’s mission as soon as possible. The storage unit is not an ideal location for their preservation, she said.

The new Indigenous People’s exhibit being worked on by Ron Loge is nearing completion, Whitworth said. The facility also opened free to the public during Dillon History Days, though donations were welcome.

Going forward, board members suggested Whitworth set up a proposal to charge for research or for providing research documents, since she is a paid employee and often doing that work.

The board also approved 50-cent per hour raises for Whitworth and the research assistant, in line with county employee raises.