Thomaston, ME, February 14, 2018 – The General Henry Knox Museum in Thomaston is taking strong steps to establish tighter oversight and long-term solvency for one of Maine’s historical treasures. The museum’s board recently moved to streamline the management structure, reduce operating costs, refocus events and activities around the museum’s core mission, and strengthen community ties.
“These moves set the stage for a new era for this museum dedicated to preserving the history of a great Revolutionary War general whose legacy is so relevant for America today,” said board chair Peter Ogden. “We have steadied the ship and set a positive course for the future.” For eighty-seven years the museum has honored its mission to pay tribute to Revolutionary War General Henry Knox, George Washington’s key advisor and commander of artillery, our nation’s first secretary of war, and founder of the Society of the Cincinnati, America’s oldest veterans’ organization.
A funding crisis drove the institution to the brink of closing its doors in the early weeks of this year, but at a critical Jan. 18 meeting, the board moved to reform museum operations and finances. These changes improve the future outlook dramatically. “We faced an existential challenge and had to make some decisions about how we could fundamentally change the organization for the better,” said Ogden. “We have done it.”
Almost immediately, the institution took steps to improve the bottom line. The board decided to eliminate the executive director position entirely – the highest-paid staff position – and to refocus the museum’s curator, Matthew Hansbury, towards implementing the museum’s core mission. The board’s seven-person executive committee will be heavily involved in carrying out the museum’s activities, including fundraising and oversight of museum events. After much debate the board decided, at this time, to maintain possession of the building (the Cole House) immediately adjacent to Montpelier.
The museum tightened its roster of major annual events and programs to be more mission-driven beginning with the 2018 season. It will offer weekly tours but will pare down the schedule of events to around 4 to 5 each year. These events will be Knox centered, explore Revolutionary War history, and honor veterans. The museum will host the annual “Boots on the Ground” ceremonies for veterans and active military, this year’s “BOOM” loan exhibition of period artillery, and a “Muskets to Machine Guns” weapons display, as well as the museum’s annual fundraising gala, and Holiday Open House.
The Knox Museum moved to strengthen bonds with the area community by bringing in four new local board members and planning some smaller, community-based events designed to encourage local participation. The institution hopes these smaller events will attract families, especially children. The museum plans to add an interactive room display for children, as part of the regular tour season this year, and hopes to add some history-based adult education programs to draw locals to the museum during the off season.
The museum is grateful for the many public and private donations that came in at the end of 2017 and the early months of this year. The board and staff believe the new operating plan will provide a solid foundation for growth as the museum looks forward to long range planning of their 100th anniversary in 2026.These sweeping fiscal, management, and programming changes aim to shore up any financial weaknesses, direct the museum toward long-term solvency by establishing an endowment, and rededicate the museum to honoring Knox’s legacy and those who follow in his footsteps.