October 15, 2009

County looks to save Victor Valley Museum

Apple Valley may pitch in up to $15,000 per year to support Victor Valley Museum

By Brooke Edwards
Lucerne Valley Leader

APPLE VALLEY • San Bernardino County is working on a plan to take over the struggling Victor Valley Museum, with intentions to remodel the site and expand its representation of High Desert history.

“One of my priorities as supervisor has been to bring a county museum to the High Desert,” 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said Friday, “so this idea brought to me by the Victor Valley Museum seemed like a natural partnership.”

The nonprofit museum approached Mitzelfelt in July with concerns over its ability to stay open, with donations reportedly down some 75 percent.

“We’ve knocked on every door in town,” said Doug Shumway, president of the museum’s board. “Even our biggest donors just couldn’t do it. They’re having to lay off people from their own staff.”

Without help, Shumway told the Apple Valley Town Council, the museum would be out of money and possibly forced to close its doors this month.

The museum offered to transfer its title to San Bernardino County in order to keep the 33-year-old community resource intact.

An estimated $250,000 to update the facility would be paid out of Mitzelfelt’s district funds. Ongoing operational costs would be borne by the County Museums Department and be offset by fundraising, with eligibility for more grants as the museum is brought in line with accreditation requirements for its displays.

Discussions are also under way with local cities to help fund operations, which Shumway said average $6,000 per month. On the agenda for yesterday’s council meeting was a plan for Apple Valley to commit up to $15,000 per year in support.

Mitzelfelt worked with the San Bernardino County Museum and County Administrative Office to develop a plan for a seamless transition.

In the first phase, the county would refurbish and upgrade existing exhibits, expand outreach programs and remodel the exterior and interior of the facility. This would result in a temporary partial closure, officials said, where residents could use portions of the facility on a limited basis.

Phase two would be intended to attract existing patrons and new ones through new exhibitions, programs, lectures, travel programs and other outreach events.

As more visitors flow to the museum through these upgrades, the county also plans to re-examine staffing levels, hours of operation and programs, to ensure the viability of the museum for years to come.

The museum was created in 1976 in the halls of the Victorville courthouse as a bicentennial project, Shumway said. It was moved to its current site, 11873 Apple Valley Road, in 1992.

“I have long admired our Victor Valley Museum and the dedicated patrons and volunteers who have kept it a viable amenity for our community,” Mitzelfelt said. “I am also glad to be able to step in at a time of need and secure the future of the museum.”