Fortunately for Ottawa and Franklin County history enthusiasts, the Old Depot Museum’s closure — which began this week — isn’t permanent, rather a two-month winter shuttering to save money in time of tight budgets. The museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa, is expected to reopen in March.
It’s the second time the museum has closed in recent years for financial reasons, having also ceased public visits in January and February 2012, Deborah Barker, director of the Franklin County Historical Society, which operates the museum, said.
“We’ve taken a lot of hits, at an appropriate time when everybody is suffering,” Barker said.
The museum, which largely is funded by Franklin County, received a budget cut of $10,000 two years ago, Barker said. With a budget of $71,000 a year, Barker said the historical society had to get creative with spending and cutting expenses. Some part-time employees have been let go and more volunteer help and donations have been requested from the public.
As low attendance months, January and February seemed like logical times to be closed, Barker said. The timing during the harsh winter months also allows the historical society to save money on utilities, she said.
It still was a difficult decision, however, especially since Kansas Day, which falls Jan. 29, typically was one of the biggest days for the museum, bringing many school children, she said.
Despite the museum being closed, Barker said, she drops by regularly to adjust the temperatures. Such adjustments are necessary to ensure the environment inside the museum stays at acceptable levels to properly preserve the artifacts inside, Barker said.
Perhaps a bright spot for the past year, however, was the success of a program that brought elementary-age students to the museum for historical talks, Barker said.
“We had way more of them in the fall then we’ve had,” Barker said.
The museum, in conjunction with the Franklin County Records and Research Center, which the historical society operates at 1124 W. Seventh St. Terrace, Ottawa, is an important tool for preserving the area’s history, Barker said.