Stuhr Praised for Partnership as Museum Makes Budget Request


Joining the likes of the Smithsonian and Colonial Williamsburg, a local museum ranks among the nation's elite. And Stuhr Museum hopes its nearly 50 year partnership with taxpayers continues.

And while it's been a target for cuts in the past, the museum is praised for innovative ideas that are reaching new people.

Hundreds trudge through sludge.

"Can't really prepare for a run through the mud," a mud-covered runner said last year.

At another Stuhr Museum event, thousands laughed along with Mark Twain.

Director Joe Black said there's a common theme for visitors.

"They can't have that experience anywhere else and that's what people are looking for – they'll always remember," he explained.

Stuhr Museum's mission is to preserve and portray history and they continue to find creative ways to get people through the gates of a world class museum.

It's in the same class as Hastings Museum, but also the Smithsonian.

Black said, "To be in that club – three percent of museums in Nebraska are that level – feels good."

They went through an extensive process to be accredited as one of the nation's best.

"We said here's what we're doing, why we're doing it, this outside group made up of museum professionals not only looked at paper policies and debated paper stuff, they came out and did separate visits for three days and looked at every aspect of what we did from the board, down to talking with visitors in visitor services," Black said.

So while no museum in Nebraska likely receives the $850,000 in taxpayer support Stuhr does, county officials say it's worth it.

County Board Member Scott Arnold said, "You're not going to get dollar for dollar return, that's obvious, but knowing the investment's going to return dividends into the future in terms of how people perceive the community and respond to the community."

The museum's been a target of budget cuts in the past. And the number crunching for this year is just underway so things could change.

But the initial response from the county board is one of praise, for collaborating with everyone from the Boy Scouts and Salvation Army to the business world.

"Chautauqua's a perfect example – profit and nonprofit groups within Hall County coming together to provide five days of free entertainment, education, and experience," Black said.

The museum served around 70,000 people last year, not only on the grounds but at the state fair. The taxpayer investment turns into $2.4 million for the community.

Black said, "To make all those dollars go further – you've got to have partnerships and we're glad to be part of them."

They're asking for no increase from the county. In fact, their budget is lower than it was six years ago.

Some of the county funds come from a lodging tax and go back towards marketing.