Museum curators: Tell your legislators to continue grant funding

KATHY FLEMING

Museum curators: Tell your legislators to continue grant funding

Kathy Fleming, Executive Director
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

There may be a trend developing in the State of Florida toward reducing funding for museums and cultural institutions.  If that occurs, Historic City News readers on the First Coast will be hard hit.

Museums, historic sites and the arts and cultural sectors contribute substantially to Florida’s tourism-based economy and what makes Florida such a unique, well-rounded tourist destination. A recent study by the American Association of Museums and Oxford Economics found that Florida museums contribute $2.9 billion dollars to the state economy annually.

“In the past, Governor Rick Scott and our state legislators have been some of the greatest proponents of the state’s cultural assets; from spearheading initiatives such as Visit Florida, to supporting grants that create jobs and return on investment through our cultural facilities,” St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Executive Director Kathy Fleming told local reporters. “We hope that we can continue contributing to our state’s robust economic engine with help from our elected officials in Tallahassee.”

Regional non-profit attractions, such as museums and cultural institutions, benefit from state-awarded grant money.  These grants include Special Category Historic Preservation Grants and General Programming Support grants awarded by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources.  These grant dollars are reinvested locally in projects that make our community special and preserve our unique way of life.

  • For the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program and overall Museum operations, 83% of its $4 million annual budget is supported directly by admissions.  The other 17% is dependent on donations and these grants.
  • Fleming reported to Historic City News that the Museum has matched, dollar-for-dollar, nearly $500,000-a-year in state grants in each of the past five years.  The Lighthouse Museum has turned that money into support for 177 full-time jobs in the last year.  They have created 26 new jobs using grant awards.  Those jobs contributed $7.4 million to the local economy, and the total economic impact of operating the non-profit Museum during the same period is about $19.5 million.

In the case of the Lighthouse Museum, and its programs, Fleming says the 48:1 return on a modest state investment is comparatively huge.

  • The tourism segment in St Johns County employs about 29,000 workers according to Downs & St. Germain Research.  About 1.1 million Floridians are employed in the tourism sector, according to Visit Florida.  Tourists in Florida are supporting or attending a culturally-based activity or institution during their visit about 65% of the time, Visit Florida reports.

Concerned residents who support continued funding of museums and cultural institutions should consider contacting their state representatives and senators to thank them for their support of Florida’s Museums, historic sites and cultural icons.  Please visit http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find for information on who to contact to discuss this important Florida issue. Help support this region’s cultural heritage and historic sites, as they are the foundation of our state’s economic health and they contribute greatly to the quality of life for our residents.

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