Thursday, January 8, 2009

Riddick's Folly is in the midst of a capital improvement project, consisting of five repair and restoration tasks being performed by the Phoenix Corporation of Newport News. This project carries a price tag of $135,000, footed entirely by the tax-payers of the City of Suffolk. That we are grateful for this should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway. We're grateful.

It gets me thinking about the two-way responsibility of a museum to its community, and vice-versa. We hold objects, documents, funds, and even the building itself in the public trust. These items may legally belong to us, but morally and practically, they belong to our community. Riddick's Folly is not just a well-decorated club house for the staff and volunteers; it's a functional place where people can come to learn about their history and their community's history.

In exchange, the people should take ownership in Riddick's Folly. This is their history, and they each have a hand in maintaining it, interpreting it, and preserving it for others. Some are more active than others, of course. Some become members of the museum; others volunteer their time; still others serve on the museum's Board of Directors. And for those who don't do any of those things, they still have a role in supporting the museum and in shaping its purpose.

Their local tax dollars help to fund our operations, and from time to time, they fund the necessary improvements to the building that keep it safe and sound. Their visits to the museum with friends or family help to spread the word about what we do. Conversely, if they don't visit, it tells us that what we're doing is either not appealing, or not publicized enough. And so we adapt.

Our improvement project will hang new shutters around the building, shore up the masonry, install new gutters (long overdue!), apply new paint to the peeling and cracking exterior, provide new storm windows, and help to repair and maintain our air handling systems. $135,000 goes quickly!

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