Cuts to affect museum

Published 12:02am Thursday, July 14, 2011

FERRIDAY — When Judith Bingham wakes up Monday morning, she won’t be making her usual drive to the Delta Music Museum to start her day at work.

And thanks to budget cuts to the Secretary of State’s Office, she won’t be coming in to work on Tuesday either.

Starting Monday morning, the Delta Music Museum on Louisiana Avenue in Ferriday will move its days of operation from five days a week, to three.

“We are only going to be open Wednesday through Friday,” Museum Director Bingham said.

Bingham said the Secretary of State’s office, which oversees many rural museums throughout the state, lost approximately $800,000 from its museum budget, forcing a dozen small museums to switch to a three-day work week to help cut employee costs.

“We understand because of the budget cut there had to be some adjustments somewhere,” she said. “In a way you could say this was a setback, but we are just glad we are able to keep our doors open.”

Bingham said the museum had a choice of staying open Wednesday through Friday or Thursday through Saturday.

“Most attractions like ours want to be open on Saturday,” she said. “We just can’t pull that off working with what we have now.”

With more than 19,000 visitors to the museum and Arcade Theater in 2010, Bingham said closing the museum two extra days a week will definitely be detrimental to business.

“I believe our numbers are even racking up higher this year than last,” she said. “Our visitor count is going to take a hit.”

Bingham said the museum doesn’t have a day of the week any busier than the other, making the hour change even more damaging.

“We can have two people here one day and then 40 the next,” she said. “People only come to visit the town for a couple of days at a time, so visitors will miss out on museum time.”

Along with fewer hours, Bingham said the museum was also cut from six employees to just two.

“It’s just me and one other employee up here now,” she said.

While the staff was cut by two-thirds, Bingham said those who were let go were retired people who were only seeking part-time hours.

With fewer days and employees, Bingham said her workload is going to be very diverse.

“Things are going to get back to where they used to be when the museum first opened up,” she said.

“I did everything from the paperwork, to the tours and the administrative work.”

Bingham said the employee cuts at the museum also included their maintenance man.

“The Town of Ferriday has graciously offered to help us maintain the museum and the Arcade Theater,” she said. “They will be offering labor help for us when we need it.”

With the cuts taking affect Monday, Bingham said she and her staff are sad to see things change.

“I can’t tell you that it makes me happy,” she said. “We have all worked so diligently to promote the museum, and it’s a lifeline for Ferriday that we are really sad to see affected by that.”

Bingham said Secretary of State Tom Schedler is doing his best to keep the current funding coming to the museum while also trying to find more money to fund the state’s rural museums.