Secretary of State visits Delta Music Museum

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 15, 2011

FERRIDAY — New Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler made his first official visit to Ferriday Friday afternoon at the Delta Music Museum to meet area residents and to discuss a possible merger of the Delta Music Museum to the lieutenant governor’s office.

“There is certainly a lot of history here,” Schedler said. “We are very proud of this museum and would like to continue to work with it.”

Currently, the Delta Music Museum falls under a division of the secretary of state’s office.

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The lieutenant governor’s office has suggested putting all museums under the secretary of state’s control into the museum division of the lieutenant governor’s office, Schedler said.

Schedler said the museum division run by the secretary of state was formed in the late 90s by former Secretary of State Fox McKeithen.

Schedler said McKeithen created the division because he was tired of seeing all of the lieutenant governor’s museum funds being funneled to larger museums in New Orleans.

McKeithen’s new division also took over the state Capitol building and the Shreveport Museum to get them back up to standards, Schedler said.

The new division McKeithen created focused on smaller museums, like the Delta Music Museum, and really helped establish them in the state, Schedler said.

Museum Director Judith Bingham said it has always been a desire of the museum to stay under the control of the secretary of state’s office.

Schedler said the merger of the two divisions into one has been talked about for years in the state, and a that a meeting regarding the merger will occur soon with members from his office and from museums all over the state to discuss the issue.

Schedler said he does not expect the merger to occur, and he is against the idea.

Schedler said he has been touring the state, and so far he has not met with one smaller museum who wanted to merge with the lieutenant governor’s office.

“I believe you would be better off staying by yourself,” he said. “There is not one dollar you can save by merging.”

Schedler said 87 percent of the Secretary of State office’s budget is used for elections, leaving little money to go toward museums.

With a $4 million museum budget, and $2.6 of that going to the state Captiol building and Shreveport museums, Schedler said the $1.3 million left over for the smaller state museums is not enough, and other ways of funding need to be sought.

“With the current economic situation, there aren’t many ways to find help,” he said. “So we are going to have to find way to fix the problems.”

Schedler said one way to help the current museum situation in Ferriday would be to hire a museum expert.

“We just need someone who knows something about museums to come in to see if it is feasible to make this museum work,” he said. “You need to form a committee to discuss these issues.”

Another way Schedler said the museum could help itself out would be to work on marketing the museum more to a wider audience.

“You can use the state dollars you receive to help market the museum, because there is always money for marketing traveling to the state,” he said. “This way you can work close together with the state, without merging.”

Schedler said he hopes the secretary of state’s office is allowed to keep its museum division.

“If you don’t go (with the lieutenant governor’s office), I will fight to keep the Delta Music Museum with me,” he said.