Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Museums Hope for State Funding Boost

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Museums Hope for State Funding Boost

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- Many of Pennsylvania's 1,200 museums and historical sites have taken a financial drubbing at the hands of state lawmakers over the past six years.

Funding through various grant programs and direct appropriations, which totaled $29.3 million in fiscal year 2005-06, had declined to $2.7 million by 2011-12. As a result, many museums have laid off staff, cut operating hours and raised admission prices.

Now there are signs of a thaw, for museums in particular, and the arts and culture community as a whole.

"We are optimistic about that," Rusty Baker, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, said recently. "I think there are definite champions for our cause now. I think legislators believe in museums."

While there are no guarantees that increased arts and culture funding will be part of Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2013-14 budget, several recent developments are driving hopes in a museum community that stretches from the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the east to Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museums in the west.

Chief among them is a bipartisan study of museum funding completed in November by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The five-month study, which cost about $72,800, does not make specific recommendations about funding but does acknowledge that the state's museums make significant contributions to tourism, economic development and education.

Among the findings: Pennsylvania's 25,000 arts and culture organizations contribute more than $2.5 billion annually to economic activity and generate more than $1. …

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