In March, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) issued a report that suggested closing the Fort Pitt Museum due to budget cuts. In reaction, the Friends of the Fort Pitt Museum (FFPM) are now proposing a new partnership that would merge Point State Park, the Fort Pitt Museum and the historic blockhouse located within the park into one entity. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), FFPM, and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the respective owners of the proposed park's components, would form an administration board that would also include private investors.
FFPM President Donn Neal says the new park would provide a "seamless experience" and is the common sense thing to do. "Restoring the park to its original character at more than $30 million in expense makes no sense at all if the museum explaining the history-changing events of its time is not here too. Without the museum, in fact, there is no point to the Point," says Neal. Neal says hope of funding from the state is "slender," but FFPM is looking at other options, including corporate sponsorship.
For its entire lifespan, the museum has been supported by a $500,000 annual provision from the PHMC, which Neal says allowed it to be lax in garnering money from admissions and private investments. Now that the annual funding is being taken away, FFPM plans on beginning an agressive marketing campaign, led in major part by FFPM member Linda Dickerson, who "specializes in the management of non-profits." Dickerson says receiving support from local businesses may be difficult in these times, but it can still be done. "If you're a business in dowtown Pittsburgh, your origins can be traced back to the place where this building stands," says Dickerson.
The proposed plan also calls for a visitors' center, common to the park and the museum, to be added to the first floor of the current museum building. Neal says this would be ideal for the museum. "People would come in to find out about the park, they'd find out there's a museum, they'd come up, buy a ticket... People think it's a great museum. It's getting them in the door that's the problem."
The plan will be presented to congressman Jim Ferlo, a member of the PHMC, tomorrow. If the idea is not accepted, the Fort Pitt Museum will close on June 30.