86 F
San Fernando
Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Museums Face Disappearing Patrons

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley is trying to shore up donations to compensate for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. A letter sent by Executive Director John Heubusch to the museum’s members in late March specified that every week the museum remains closed, it loses about $150,000 in revenue from admissions, concessions, events and other on-site sales. The museum has been closed since March 13. “As you can imagine, as a public-facing institution, we collect revenue through ticket sales, museum store sales, audio tour sales and membership sales,” said Melissa Giller, the museum’s chief marketing officer, in an email to the Business Journal. “By being closed, these funds are now not coming in.” Such is the reality for many museums and nonprofit cultural institutions throughout the Valley region. Tommy Gelinas, chief executive of the Valley Relics Museum in Van Nuys, said on-site revenue at his museum has screeched to a halt as government and medical officials urge people to stay in their homes. “Our events space (was) constantly booked up. The space rents from $1,800 to $3,200 for an evening. We’ve had two cancellations so far. That hurts. And (the museum) usually generates anywhere from 300 to 500 people a week at $10 a person. All those little things that keep us going have stopped,” Gelinas said. Even so, Gelinas isn’t panicking. He said he has built up enough savings to cover two months of rent and bills without any revenue. But with no end to the crisis in sight, the Valley Relics Museum has turned to digital technology to keep money trickling in. “(Before the outbreak,) we were putting some new exhibits in. We’re going to start doing virtual tours hosted by me personally, and I’ll get some of my celebrity friends to help,” Gelinas said. The museum has also overhauled its online website with new T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, books and miniature light-up models of iconic Valley signs including Circus Liquor and the Van Nuys Drive-In. Gelinas said he has launched an aggressive social media marketing campaign to sell those products. The Valley Relics Museum isn’t the only institution turning to virtual tours to keep locals engaged. The Museum of Ventura County, which also operates the Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula and the Albinger Archaeological Museum in Ventura, has digitized several of its on-site exhibits, including a themed collection of pieces from Ojai studio artists titled “Mending the Divide.” The museum’s website features historical articles, games and “learning modules,” comprised of lessons and corresponding art projects. For example, one is focused on the role children and families have played in historic times of crisis. These offerings are free of charge, and, according to the museum’s Deputy Director Denise Sindelar, serve more as a way to keep the Ventura County community engaged with the museum and its resources. “This new content is helping us stay connected to our patrons. At a time when many find themselves alone in isolation, the museum is here to provide support in any way we can,” she told the Business Journal. Similarly, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard has gone digital, and is streaming video tours of its historic French vehicle collections for free on Instagram every Tuesday.

Featured Articles

Related Articles