National Museum of Civil War Medicine


To: Mayor and Board of Aldermen
From: Paul Smith
Date: May 12, 2009
Re: National Museum of Civil War Medicine – Request slight increase in budget funding for 2010 Budget

Attached to this Memo are minutes from the last meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. For the reasons given below, I am encouraging the Mayor and Board to approve a slight increase in funding to the Museum from the $25,000 given in the last budget to $30,000 for the 2010 budget.

1. Like many non-profits, the Museum is being hit with a reduction in both state and federal funding. To help weather this reduction, the Museum has already cut staff. The Museum is down to a minimal staff. At the April Board meeting, George Wunderlich proposed cutting the Museum’s budget by $86,000. Included in such cuts was a proposed 5% cut of his own salary, plus proposed cuts of 2% to staff IRAs. The Board of Directors rejected these latter cuts. But this still leaves the Museum in a difficult financial crisis. The Board voted to secure a $50,000 line of credit as a “stop-gap measure.”

As you will see from reading the names of the Board members (at the top of the attached minutes, the Board is comprised of some of the most prominent and dedicated individuals in our community. They all recognize the great value that is ours having George Wunderlich as Museum director, and the value to have him carry through with his leadership and plans for the Sesquicentennial. George is a man of exceptional knowledge, vision and initiative.

2. Because of the Civil War Sesquicentennial and the attending opportunities for the Museum, it is critical to the long-term growth and development of the Museum that it be prepared to capitalize on the tourism traffic that will visit Frederick during the next six years. This is the time to make the case for the national, historical importance of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Making the Museum’s efforts and programs a success should not be delayed or eliminated.

The City has already provided substantial and continued support to the Museum, both by providing the building (for $1/year) and with annual grants. In my opinion, the value of the rental contribution alone must exceed $50,000/year. So there is no question that the City has been generous in its support. But my point is that we should make sure that the Museum has every opportunity to succeed during the Sesquicentennial years; this will give us and the Museum the best opportunity to succeed and move toward permanent financial viability.

The financial goal of the Museum is to eventually build up an endowment fund of $8 or $9 million. At that point it would be self-sustaining. I believe the fund is currently a little over $1 million. Over a period of time, as gifts come in (from the living and from will bequests), this goal can be achieved. But it will probably take 20 years to achieve this goal. One of the recently initiated activities that will help to achieve this goal is the annual Major Letterman Dinner (scheduled for Oct. 28, 2009) and its annual award for Medical Excellence. (The City of Frederick was appropriately the first award recipient, last year.) This was a very successful event, and it will play a key role in bringing donations to the Museum in the future.

The Museum has no where else to make cuts. It is critical that the Museum retain the services of its Director, George Wunderlich, and of key staff, including Karen Thomassen and Niki Thrash. It is critical that the City and the Museum retain their knowledge and vision of how to best capitalize on the Sesquicentennial events. Their continued participation can help the City to put the City of Frederick on the map, so to speak, as a part of the important medical advances that came from the Civil War battles that were fought around the Frederick hub.

3. Because I am the liaison to the Museum, perhaps it could be said that I am partial to the Museum. I don’t doubt this. But it is also my responsibility to share with you my understanding of the Museum’s problems and opportunities—which are also City problems and opportunities. In my judgment it is in the City’s interest to give special treatment to the Museum at this critical time. If you share with me the belief that it is important that the Museum be able to capitalize on the tourism opportunities that will present themselves during the next six years, then please join with me in helping secure some financial help for them. The City cannot, and is not expected to cure the Museum’s entire funding problems. But it would help if we could show our commitment to the Museum as being a close partner with the City’s own growth, development and well-being. If the Museum performs impressively during these years, it could accelerate its becoming self-sufficient through increased gifts and tourism. But if the Museum is not able to take advantage of the Sesquicentennial because of funding gaps, then it may take many more years for the Museum to reach its financial goals and to secure the place of national prominence that it has the opportunity to attain.

It is this unique opportunity that I seek to help my fellow legislators in the City and the County to recognize. This opportunity is more than sufficient justification for the Museum to receive more funding than other non-profits. No other non-profit is facing the critical, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the Museum is facing, as it prepares for the Sesquicentennial. The City cannot afford to be too stingy with the Museum at the very moment it has some extra needs to help it seize the Sesquicentennial opportunity.

4. The specific action that I am requesting is that the City increase its funding of the Museum in the 2010 budget from $25,000 to $30,000. This is not a large increase, but it would be extremely beneficial to the Museum, which has been paring every possible unnecessary expenditure. It would be an important indicator to the Museum and to the entire community that we recognize the importance of the Museum for the City and County, and that we are committed to help the Museum succeed in its Sesquicentennial efforts despite the economic difficulties that all are facing. Yes, this would be a slight increase in funding, at the same time the City is cutting back its contributions to other non-profits. But it is fully justified and warranted. The Museum’s and the City’s unique situation and opportunity requires that we do this.

Thank you for your support.

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