A history center and some historic sites in Frankfort are being closed during the winter months.
Kentucky Historical Society spokeswoman Lisa Cleveland told The State
of Frankfort that the difficult but necessary decision was driven by budget cuts and attendance numbers.
State funding for the historical society has been cut from $8 million in 2008 to $6.2 million in 2011, she said.
Beginning on Dec. 12, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol and the Kentucky Military History Museum will be closed except to groups and for special events. They will reopen on March 11.
Reference services will be available by mail, e-mail and phone.
Cleveland said employees will still report to work, but will focus on cataloging a collection of 500,000 artifacts. Cleveland said only about 10 percent of the historical photos, oral interviews and documents held by the agency have been cataloged.
“At the end of the day, the staff and cabinet felt our number one job is to take care of our collections and that’s the direction we decided to go,” Cleveland said.
The move comes on top of cuts that have already been made. Cleveland said staff has been reduced from 95 in 1999 to 59 in 2010, part-time gallery attendants have been eliminated and full-time workers are being cross-trained to provide visitor services.
The closures won’t save additional money because salaries and operating costs won’t be reduced, Cleveland said. She said the agency has its lowest visitation numbers during those months, but they pick up again in March as school trips increase, she said.
The closures are planned each year through 2013, but Cleveland said it could be reconsidered if the economy improves and funding is restored.
Joy Jeff ries, executive director of Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism, said the decision will have an impact but it should be minimal.
“The saddest part for me is the casual traveler won’t get to see the Kentucky story,” she said.
Dewey Blanton, spokesman for the American Association of Museums, said other states are curtailing hours for historical sites and museums because of the recession. However, he said prolonged closures are more rare.