Ratepayers to pay the price of a free museum

ORANGE City Council will make admission to the new museum free in a bid to keep the facility affordable for the whole community meaning ratepayers will foot the bill for ongoing running costs.

Cultural and community services director Scott Maunder said  council had been advised admission charges could put the museum out of the financial reach of most people and school groups.

“Our art gallery is free and for social inclusion for disadvantaged groups even if it was a modest fee the evidence is it precludes people,” he said.

Mr Maunder said it was too early to reveal preliminary estimates of the museum’s operating costs but said the additional facility would not take money away from other council-run facilities like the library or gallery.

He said the final costs will depend on the savings that can be made by using the visitors’ centre as the entrance to the museum so no extra staff will be needed.

“We think [the museum] will add to the cultural richness of Orange and attract people to Orange,” he said.

“The museum is much more than just looking at old things, there’s also education and links with schools.”

Orange & District Historical Society president Phil Stevenson said he believed the museum should be kept free like most other regional museums but said the success of smaller museums like Millthorpe’s had shown admission charges don’t deter all visitors.

“Some museums have been lucky to have had a sugar-daddy who has not only provided for the cost of the museum but has helped with the running costs,” he said.

“People think it’s just a building with a few exhibitions behind glass ... but I’d like to see it as an institution rather than a museum. It needs to be very inclusive.”

Mr Maunder said revenue from admission charges for special exhibitions and the leasing out of the cafe, planned as part of the building, would both boost the museum’s coffers and the facility could also be eligible for ongoing grants from the state and federal government.

The council has identified the $7 million purpose built cultural facility as the number one priority for this year but the contents and displays of the museum are yet to be decided.

“We don’t envisage it will replicate other regional museums,” Mr Maunder said.

“We’re trying not to define too much how the space will be used, we’re looking for flexibility.”

Council community liaison adviser Alison Russell said council’s small heritage collection and the historical society’s collection are expected to be included in the museum but the contents could also be boosted from items donated by the community.

Mr Stevenson said he expects lots of support from residents with private collections and said the museum also needed to think for the future with digital displays.

“We’ve got to move with the times with the youth and what they’re up to,” he said.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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