GLENS FALLS -- When cash-strapped school districts cut back on field trips to save on transportation costs, the Chapman Historical Museum decided to take the museum on the road.
Kim Harvish, the museum’s educator, has developed a series of education presentations for elementary and junior high school classes through the eighth grade, using historic photographs, maps and other items in the museum’s collection of historical items from Glens Falls and Queensbury.
In one presentation, for example, she shows the class an 1889 photograph of downtown Glens Falls, and then shows them a modern photograph taken from the same viewpoint, and gets students talking about what has changed over time.
The education presentations are part of the museum’s strategy to diversify its offerings and rebuild its financial base during tough economic times.
The museum, at 348 Glen St., has reduced its annual budget from a prerecession level of $198,000 in the 2008-’09 fiscal year to $177,000 in the current fiscal year that began Aug. 1, said Tim Weidner, the museum’s executive director.
Largely, the cuts have been in staff hours.
“That was the only area where we really had any flexibility because we were running a very lean operation already,” he said.
During the recession, contributions and government support dropped off, but finances have rebounded somewhat through grants and increased educational programs.
“The level of giving, privately, has gone up. We also now have new income from foundations. ... But overall we’re operating at a budget that is less than it used to be,” Weidner said.
Educational programs not only increase awareness of the museum and local history, but they bring in revenue.
The museum charges $2 per student, or a minimum of $30 per classroom, for school programs, and $50 for educational programs at senior centers and community groups, Harvish said.
In the last school year, she did about a dozen school programs, and this year she hopes to do at least two dozen.
The museum also is developing curriculum for use in school classrooms, and it recently introduced a new discounted membership fee for teachers, as a way to build relationships.
The strategy to diversify offerings will be part of preparation of a new master plan, which Weidner hopes to have completed by January.
“One of the things we discovered is that within our immediate area, there are a lot of people that have not been to the museum,”
he said. “So what we’ve identified is that we really want to focus on reaching our local audience first, because that’s going to be the most efficient use of our local resources.”
After a drop-off during the recession, the number of people who toured the museum actually increased this year, from 1,019 in the 2010-’11 fiscal year to 1,043 in the 2011-’12 fiscal year.
But total museum attendance, which includes people who visit the museum gift shop, decreased slightly from 5,600 to 5,087.
Weidner said the master plan will focus not just on drawing more visitors, but also on nontraditional ways to connect with local residents, such as posting photos and material from the museum’s collection online.