The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a unique window into a vital chapter of American history that the late Buck O’Neil helped open 20 years ago, could be in trouble.
Attendance and revenues are down, and a decision by new management to distance itself from O’Neil has splintered many of its most loyal supporters.
What’s more, the recession has cut deeply into donations. After posting its first loss two years ago of about US$30,000, the museum is looking at what one staffer termed “a monster loss” that could approach a quarter of a million dollars when the final accounting for 2009 is complete. For a relatively small museum that has always depended on the kindness of others, $200,000 is seismic.
Much of the revenue loss is traceable to a drop in licensing revenue. No one is predicting the museum’s imminent demise, but everyone agrees the trend must be reversed.
“For museums all over the country, dollars are becoming hard to find,” said Greg Baker, who took over as executive director a little more than a year ago. “We are challenged by that. We’ve got to raise money to keep going and if we don’t, we’ll end up closing our doors.”
If it shuts down, the country will lose the only museum dedicated exclusively to black baseball’s unique contribution to American culture and the vital role those men played in the long and painful march toward equality.
Sad news for a museum that chronicles an important part of American history.