Joplin Museum Complex Boards to Sit On Question of Union Depot

We mentioned earlier today that City Manager, Mark Rohr, was to give a presentation to the boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex on moving from Schifferdecker Park to a restored Union Depot building. Thanks to Morgan Schutters, of KODE tv, we now know how the meeting unfolded.

In the presentation, Mr. Rohr estimated the budget for the restoration of the building and associated costs would be around 7.7 million dollars. Of that 7.7 million dollars, no new taxes would be required (unlike the Joplin Museum Complex’s failed attempt to take over Memorial Hall) and it would be funded entirely by existing sources. Much of this would be done using currently available tax credits. Even more importantly, after the planned restoration of the Depot, the building would qualify as a Smithsonian approved museum. We belief, but have not yet confirmed, that this is related to the Smithsonian Affiliation program – in which museum affiliates are eligible to host Smithsonian exhibits and collections. To do that, the Smithsonian requires the museum to be:

“…a viable institution, capable of caring for, protecting, and exhibiting collections in a manner consistent with the standards set by the American Association of Museums, and meeting specific requirements for long-term care and maintenance of Smithsonian collections, as set forth in the Smithsonian’s Collections Management Policy.”

(This status, one would presume, should ease the fears raised by Museum Director Brad Belk last year on the ability to safeguard the JMC’s collections (currently collecting dust and cat hair in the current location).)

Quoted in the report, board member Angie Besendorfer, implied that “a lot of questions” still need to be answered before the boards could make a decision. Likewise, the board told Mr. Rohr that it would need more time to think about the issue.

Should the boards decide to agree to the plan to move the museum into a renovated Depot building, we will be wonderfully and happily surprised. However, we fear that the board members made their minds up quite some time ago. If they haven’t, we urge all those who want to continue to see Joplin move forward on the rise, to once again believe that better days are still ahead, to speak up and out. If you know a board member, tell them you support the move to the Depot. It is an urgent issue which has been delayed for too long, and as Mr. Rohr noted in the meeting, time is running out on the means to make it happen without extra cost to the city and her residents.

Museum Boards Meet to Discuss Depot Plans – HJ’s Response

Today’s Joplin Globe reported that the Joplin Museum and Historical Society boards met to discuss the Gryphon Building and Union Depot as potential locations for the Joplin Museum Complex. Both boards voted against a proposal to purchase the newly renovated Gryphon Building. The cost of the Gryphon Building was far too high for the museum.

Joplin Museum Complex Director Brad Belk then discussed the Union Depot. After noting, “It is better laid out than the current museum location” he claimed the size of the depot is smaller than the current museum facility and that it has water issues in the basement.

Gee.

The depot is almost one hundred years old and has been sitting empty since the 1970s. With no windows, no doors, and no maintenance, it’s not surprising that it has a few issues. At least one architect and one contractor have expressed their opinion that the structure is sound and built to last.

It seems Belk and the museum/society boards are dragging their feet when there is a golden opportunity before them. They could be heroes! Imagine – revitalizing the Union Depot, a beautiful structure that stands on the site of the lead strike that led to Joplin’s very existence – and helping anchor and rehabilitate north downtown Joplin. Instead, they are letting a few puddles of water and space concerns constrain them.

Look into the water issue. Talk to architects about the cost and design of an addition to the current structure that would bring needed additional space that would, at the same time,  preserve the architectural integrity of the depot. The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City managed to do this.

Now, we realize that the museum complex is poor as a church mouse and that its board members are unable and/or unwilling to cough up a significant amount of funds needed to bring in a renown architect and build a modern addition like the Nelson-Atkins. That isn’t necessary. What is necessary is that the boards and Belk seize this opportunity. A local architect can be found who can create a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing addition.

They have no concept of vision. But, then again, it seems that the museum and society boards are populated by good old boys who know very little about museums and historic preservation.

Why not look into Mark Rohr’s proposals of grants and other funding methods to make the dream come true? It certainly would be better to try and fail in this case rather than just sit and do nothing but complain and grumble.

Let’s face it.

In April the voters declined to support the museum’s pathetic takeover of Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall is over. Move on. Move on to what people are actually voicing support for. Museum attendance across the nation has been declining for years. Either you march into the future or you wait to be swept up into the dustbin of history and irrelevance.

What will it be?

In memory of the feisty Joplin Globe and News-Herald editors of yesteryear who never failed to express their opinion whether popular or not.

Historic Joplin - Support the Union  Depot Proposal

Don't Let The Museum Board Balk at A New Home!