WAXHAW — Despite what Google may say, the Museum of the Waxhaws is not “permanently closed,” according to Gene Stowe, the museum’s spokesperson.
The confusing language may keep some potential patrons from visiting the museum, but Stowe speculated Google meant to communicate that Museum of the Waxhaws is temporarily closed. The museum has plans to open on Saturdays starting in June.
The Museum of the Waxhaws focuses on the Colonial settlement of the Waxhaws — southern Union County and northern Lancaster County, South Carolina. The land was named after a branch of the Native Catawbas.
The museum’s mission is “to help build that community by engaging people in our full history, celebrating its successes, acknowledging its failures, and seeking reconciliation and inclusion in the present,” per its website. “Our vision is a dynamic community of people from many backgrounds and cultures thriving together in The Waxhaws, across the country, and around the world.”
Some local history museums are having to be creative in finding financial support to avoid actually closing permanently.
According to the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the COVID-19 pandemic may take a third of all museums across the country in its wake.
In July of 2020, the Alliance published a national survey showing 33% of museum directors confirmed there was a “significant risk” of closing permanently by autumn 2021 or they “didn’t know” if their museum would survive. More than 750 directors were surveyed. Dynamic Benchmarking conducted the research.
When the survey was conducted in June, “87% of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves remaining, with 56% having less than six months left to cover operations,” per the American Alliance of Museums.
Local history museums not only preserve the culture of the past, but they also provide employment for current citizens and contribute to a community’s economy.
“This data is critical as the Alliance continues to advocate for the resources museums require to recover from the current financial crisis,” Laura Lott, President & CEO of AAM, said in a press release. Alliance advocates secured hundreds of millions of dollars for museums, and the Federal Paycheck Protection Program has served as a lifeline for many museums. “However, with the funding running out, furloughs and layoffs will grow without additional financial support from the government or donors.”
One way the Museum of the Waxhaws will secure operational funding is by selling part of their property.
The Andrew Jackson Foundation, which owns the museum, is hoping to sell 15 out of a total 22 acres for more than $1 million. The money would be placed in a trust to “endow the museum’s work, including displays, field trips, and special events,” according to the museum.
Stowe said structures on the property would be moved to the remaining acreage to form a smaller campus.
A GoFundMe page was created to support the museum until the sale of the land is complete. The page was established by Roy Sansbury of Farms & Estates Realty (https://www.gofundme.com/f/farms-estates-museum-of-the-waxhaws-fundraiser?member=10455446&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer).
“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated trends that were already devastating small museums across the country, and many have had to close,” Kris Morefield, museum board president, said in a press release sent to the Enquirer-Journal. “We are fortunate to have access to resources that will not only sustain but enhance our service to the community.”
She continued: “We are not going to forget our own history. We will devote our resources to expanding our capacity to help more people gain a sense of this place — including the thousands of newcomers who will enjoy learning about their new home. We call them ‘the Second Wave of Northern Migration,’ since most of the early settlers came down the Great Wagon Road from the North.”
The museum is having a BBQ-to-go event from 11 a.m. — 3 p.m. (or until they sell out) on May 29; they will sell pulled pork and chicken barbeque. Plates of either pork or chicken are $12 and includes beans and slaw. Patrons can also purchase pulled pork by the pound for $10.
Proceeds will go to support the museum.