Newsclipping of the Day :: My Project in the News

Apparently, our plans have ruffled some feathers. I have no comment until after tomorrow. Click on the title of this post to see yesterday's article in its native format. Text is cut and pasted below.

Statehouse exhibit plans squeeze gift shop
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Alan Johnson

Lee Anne Fullen, assistant manager, talks with a customer in the Statehouse Museum Gift Shop. The shop may move to a smaller, higher-traffic location in the Statehouse.
Enriching the experience of visiting the historical Statehouse could make the building’s gift shop a little poorer.

Or, depending on your point of view, it could trigger a booming business in state seal lapel pins, miniature cannons, Statehouse mugs and Ohio quarter thimbles.

On Tuesday, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board will unveil an ambitious project to upgrade historical exhibits and revamp educational programs in the 146-year-old Statehouse. Private donors have given about $1 million to help pay for the work.

Electronic media, including video and interactive presentations, will replace many of the existing static exhibits, most of which are viewed behind glass. The updated, high-tech approach is being applied in museums nationwide. Planners think it will increase the Statehouse’s appeal to visitors.

About 61,000 people took guided tours in 2006, down 8,000 from the year before. An additional 25,000 attended special events at the Statehouse, which underwent a $121 million renovation that was completed in 1996.

Part of the new plan calls for moving the Statehouse Museum Gift Shop, now located in the middle of the lower level in an area known as the crypt, to a spot in the lower level of the adjacent Senate Building. The shop is operated by the Capitol Square board.

The shop’s current space will be used for new exhibits.

However, the move entails a significant reduction in the gift shop’s retail and storage space. That, coupled with the cost of the move to a less central location, prompted Becky Wildman, the shop manager and a state employee, to send an urgent e-mail to some customers.

"It is my belief that the proposed plan would adversely affect sales by limiting our exposure and downsizing our space," Wildman wrote.

She suggested that the downsizing would require focusing more on souvenir and children’s merchandise, most of which is imported, and mean a shift away from "Ohio products which are our claim to fame."

Wildman declined to comment on her e-mail.

Gregg Dodd, spokesman for the Capitol Square board, said Wildman now thinks it was "inappropriate" to send the e-mail before the board discussion of the move. That will come Tuesday morning.

The state hired Hilferty Museum Planning and Design, one of the top design firms in the nation, to develop a master plan.

The Athens-based Hilferty’s project list is eye-popping, including the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center in St. Louis, the Chicago Historical Society, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the College Football Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Derby Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Dodd said change is difficult, but the gift shop’s new location will be in a high-traffic area where visitors enter and exit the new museum.

"Our main focus should be on education," Dodd said, so the Statehouse can be "a special place for all Ohioans for generations to come."

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