Sunny days ahead

Keith Strange Staff Reporter

December 27, 2013

Administrators at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History said 2013 has been one for the record books, and they hope for an even more successful year next year.

“I think it’s safe to say that 2013 has been the best year since I’ve been here,” said museum Director Matt Edwards, who started in the position in 2009. “That bodes well for this year, and I hope next year as well.”

Edwards credited the support of the community with the success.

“I have to give credit where credit is due,” he said. “And a lot of that credit goes to the strong support of both individuals and businesses in the community. When I joined the museum, it was during the height of the recession, and we had a pretty significant operating deficit. So we’ve been working very hard to get our budget balanced and our finances stabilized in the aftermath of the recession.

“This has been the year we’ve been able to do that,” Edwards added, noting that while things are better at the moment, continued support is critical going forward.

For Edwards, it was all about stepping back and making the right decisions.

“We made some strategic moves early on this year like selling our annex building on Oak Street,” he said. “The revenue generated from that sale was used to pay off some debt that was accrued during the worst part of the recession. We also did a lot of additional work in terms of fundraising efforts, sponsorship of programming and events and those kinds of things to get our budget in check.”

In addition, a series of grants secured by the museum during 2013 was used to “do some great things as far as our programming,” Edwards said.

“Specifically, we were able to use grant funding for programs like our Luthier’s Craft exhibit and the new geocaching program,” he said. “And behind the scenes, we were able to use some of the grant funding to work on our collections, like purchasing archiving supplies and equipment that allowed us to began digital archiving of some of our collections.”

Looking back, Edwards said the Luthier’s Craft exhibit and geocaching program have been two of the highlights of his year.

“They took a ton of time, work and energy, but the quality of the exhibit and program really shows,” he said.

As far as fundraising, Edwards noted that this year’s third annual Casino Royale event, held at Cross Creek Country Club, was a record-breaking event.

“We raised more than $35,000 that night, and with its success we certainly plan on hosting another casino night next year,” he said.

Edwards said the museum is now in a “pretty good position” to move forward in the new year.

“We have recently just started an endowment-building initiative called the Clocktower Society for people who may want to support the operation of the museum financially, and eventually want it to grow to the point where it can support the vast majority of our operational expenses,” he said. “That’s pretty unique for a museum of our size, and we’re hoping the endowment grows significantly over the next several years.”

The goal, according to Edwards, is to make Mount Airy’s museum a destination unto itself.

“All of our programming, activities and fundraising is really geared toward making the museum an active and viable part of our community,” he said. “We don’t want it to simply be a place where old stuff is stored, rather somewhere you want to be involved on a regular basis.”

Reach Keith Strange at or 719-1929.