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Historical center ‘alive and well’
Hours shifted; few other changes seen
Sunday, July 8, 2012
By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
Few changes are planned under the new management of the Bassett Historical Center.
“History is alive and well at the Bassett Historical Center, and we have no plans of regressing at all,” said Philip Dalton, chairman of the Bassett Public Library Association (BPLA).
According to Dalton and Betty Scott, vice chairman of the association, the only immediate change is an adjustment of hours.
The historical center now is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays except Tuesdays, when the hours are noon to 5 p.m., according to Dalton and Scott.
The center no longer will be open on Saturdays, but adjustments could be made in the future to meet patrons’ needs, he said.
The BPLA took over management of the historical center on July 1.
The center had been managed by the Blue Ridge Regional Library system since the early 1990s. The center was located in space owned by the association and leased to the library system for a nominal fee.
The association notified the library system in April that the lease would not be renewed, and the library system split with the historical center.
“We exercised our option to terminate the lease agreement. That option also was available to the tenant. They had that same option,” Dalton said.
“We only wish them (the library system) well, and we don’t want to dwell at all in the past. We want to concentrate on the future. We have a good mission to tell, and ours is totally different” from the library system’s, he said.
“We are more and more becoming a center for research, not only genealogy, but all historical data on the area” as well as a museum for collections, historical artifacts and other data, Dalton said.
He added that he wanted to assure “our supporters, patrons and donors that we are on firm ground and that we have a very secure facility” with a state of the art security system.
“We have transitioned our insurance coverage and actually added insurance on specific artifacts and museum pieces, whether they were our own or on loan,” Dalton said. “Everyone can rest assured we have insurance (and) very good security.”
Staffing at the center is unchanged, with the two full-time employees — including Pat Ross, the center’s long-time director — remaining, Dalton said.
Ross also is the managing administrator of the operation, Dalton said.
Scott said the center’s two part-time employees also remain.
All four employees “are very capable, and we also have volunteers who come in” and work each week, she said.
Whether volunteer or paid, “they all are extremely knowledgeable about what is contained in the building, and they actually work with people” rather than just pointing them in a certain direction, Scott said.
“Our board will not be micro-managing the center. We will be there to help and direct on occasion, but we have the utmost confidence in Pat (Ross),” Dalton said.
The center plans to expand its monthly programs and offer more opportunities with authors, speakers, and the like, he said. “We are excited about the future,” he added.
Scott said she has noticed increased activity at the center just in the last few months.
The association also is planning a “major fundraising event” for late fall, Dalton said, without elaborating. “We are totally dependent on the generosity of our supporters, whether they be private or other sources.”
Dalton said all avenues of possible funding will be explored, including the Harvest Foundation, the city of Martinsville and Henry County.
When the center’s building addition was being planned and underway from 2006 to 2011, “we had the $10 donors and the $1,000 donors, and we need all of that” now as well, Dalton said. “We don’t want to back up and we don’t want to slow down at all.”
When it split from the library system, the historical society lost funding that system provided. The total amount could not be determined, but library officials had told Henry County and Martinsville that a total of nearly $145,000 of their contributions to the library system in the new fiscal year would have gone to the historical center.
As a result, Henry County cut its funds to the library system by $80,310 and Martinsville cut its contribution by $36,766.
Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins said she is not aware of any pending request from the historical center, but any entity wanting “to make a request can do so.” Each request is handled on an individual basis, she said.
Deputy County Administrator Tim Hall also said he is not aware of any request from the center or the association.
Generically speaking, outside agencies that request county funds must provide an audit from the most recent year “and then the process starts.”
As in Martinsville, requests are handled on a case by case basis, he added.