SOUTHINGTON — Barnes Museum leaders are planning for expanded services, more tours and better collection cataloguing while waiting to hear the results of a grant application that will fund a part-time position.
Kristi Sadowski, library and Barnes Museum executive director, expects to hear about the application in September. In the meantime, she’s working to improve the grounds of the historic home on North Main Street and gather volunteer docents who can provide tours.
More volunteers will allow the museum’s two curators, one of whom is part-time, to focus on tasks that currently take a back seat to guiding visitors through the Barnes family house. They’re now often occupied with giving tours.
The grant requires matching funds from the town, Sadowski said, but those funds can take the form of volunteer hours. She’ll use the docent’s hours to meet the grant requirements but can’t start the volunteers until she hears about the grant. If the town doesn’t get the money, those volunteers will still help the museum by handling tours.
“Either way, we can get started with (docents) in the fall,” Sadowski said.
The Town Council approved for Sadowski to apply for the grant in December. Three councilors voted against the grant application, saying the funds for a part-time, two-year position would open the door to adding another town employee.
Councilors wanted to see the museum generate more revenue and suggested improvements that would allow it to host wedding ceremonies and photography shoots. Sadowski said hiring a program coordinator through the grant, along with recruitment of volunteers to lead tours, would help raise the museum's profile and bring in more money.
There are already efforts to improve the grounds and attract paying events. Friends of the Barnes Museum board president Brenda Wooding said the group spent $2,000 to replace rotted wood columns on the gazebo and are looking for bids to paint the structure as well. Using old photographs, the column styles and paint will match the original.
“This time the columns aren’t wood,” Wooding said. The columns are synthetic and will be longer-lasting.
Eagle Scouts have helped improve the grounds as well. Sadowski said there is a wedding photography shoot booked. Attracting such events would be a job of the program coordinator.
Museum leaders also want to make repairs to the veranda roof and railings. Wooding said the project is too large for the friends group but said Sadowski will look for grants to help fund the work.
Sadowski isn’t sure of the grant status but knows that the town is still in the running. Even without the program coordinator, there’ll be changes in the fall.
“We won’t necessarily have the same level of programing and outreach we’re hoping for,” Sadowski said. “(We’ve discussed) if we don’t get the grant, what could we do with the staffing that we have?”