Preserving history has its price

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Monett Historical Society has been talking for several months about finding a new location for its museum. The city building in use at 705 E. Broadway is available thanks to the generosity of the Monett City Council. Nonetheless, city leaders have said at some point they want to demolish the structure, which dates back over a hundred years to the city's first power plant.

Leaders in the historical society want to keep the museum in a very visible location. Downtown has been ideal. However, downtown floods. Not every building fits the museum's needs. Many of the buildings require too much work, which is why they are not in use today.

Bob and Debbie Berger set a gold standard in rehabbing the building used by Mocha Jo's and The Den at 404 E. Broadway. They showed that a fully restored building becomes a great community resource. Anything less than that may be serviceable for now, but may not have a future.

It's one thing to buy an old building in the right location. It's another thing to rehab a building like the Bergers did.

So the Monett Historical Society continues to look. While the society has some resources, it has no proven money generating mechanism to support a building rehabilitation project. A not-for-profit organization faces challenges unique to its mission.

In this region, other not-for-profits have had success in fundraising projects. The Springfield Symphony, for example, puts on the Greater Ozarks Blues Festival. Success for them comes from investing in a good product and being located in a population center. That kind of enterprise doesn't necessarily work in a small town.

A more manageable undertaking is the fundraising dinner, like Cox Monett Hospital's Dining for Diabetes. People will go out to eat. A properly organized evening can raise a few thousand dollars. A really good history book can do just as well. Neither will generate enough to rehab or support a building.

Giving away a vehicle in a drawing used to raise good money. Fewer top notch vehicles can be found at a great price these days, plus enough people must be found to buy tickets.

So the Monett Historical Society faces two significant challenges: find a good location and find a way to pay for it, especially if ongoing expenses are significant. Its leaders have thoughtfully considered a few places to date and are still looking.

So far, the right door has not opened.

Space has been a growing issue for the museum, as with many historical groups. The current building doesn't have enough room and most of the buildings looked at have either too much space or too many problems.

Thanks to the city leaders, there has been no rush to move. The generosity of the city has enabled the museum to get a foothold in the first place. A few more ideas on what to do next may help.

Visit the museum and share your thoughts. The museum is open from 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.