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The Closed Museum Blues

Museum Are Closed

Closed: In Any Language

The Brenham Heritage Museum is closed.

21 inches of rain can flood a building and cause the business doors to be closed, its true. Flood a basement, destroy a bunch of drywall, ruin an otherwise useful space… until repaired, that is. The thing is, it isn’t as easy as all that. Insurance is there to help, but it doesn’t cover it all. After a certain point, after the restoration grows past a certain size or dollar amount, the law requires an architect. And an engineer. And ADA. More code issues pop up. It is a never-ending mess of costly hoops we are being forced to jump through.

Meanwhile, the Museum remains closed, with administrative business being conducted in the new exhibit space behind the Museum at the Brenham Bus Depot.

And the Museum doesn’t even own the building.

The City of Brenham owns it – conditionally. The building was given to the City of Brenham by the U.S. Federal Government. Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so the Feds had conditions.

Anything done to the building has to be approved by the National Park Service.

If the use of the building changes, the National Parks Service also have to approve it. So, they get a say in the building’s future, but contribute no money toward that future. If they are denied a say in these things, they can take the building back. POOF – just like that.

The State of Texas has a say in the building as well.

Anything we do the building must pass muster with the Texas Historical Commission. If they don’t like it, the Museum can’t do it. They can say no to a color of paint, or a new wall or window addition. Anything in the building, really. They also have this say without having to contribute any money toward the building. I mean, this is Texas. The State Government spends practically nothing and anything related to history. Not going to get a dime out of them.

Of course, the City of Brenham also has a say.

The City of Brenham was given the building, so it belongs to them – conditionally. Of course, they have a say. We have to clear anything and everything with the city first, as it should be. Well, some things we don’t bother with. We fixed the water fountain, and didn’t ask the city’s permission or ask them to fix it. The interior lighting in the building was redesigned, and then installed. The Museum didn’t ask them for a dime. The money was raised and the job got done. We fixed the front doors without asking the city for help. Plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, and other service providers come through here all the time… and the Museum pays for it. It is important to this organization that we act in the best interest of our community, and therefore do not put unnecessary burden on the taxpayer.

What more can be said?

Now that we need to address the basic restoration of this building, post-natural disaster, there is some doubt as to whether the city can actually get it done. With the expenses Hurricane Harvey has  imposed upon the city, it becomes exceedingly unlikely. Under our existing lease much of the responsibility of maintaining the building is laid upon the museum. This lease, which is over twenty years old, absolves the city of responsibility. Of course, the city pledged to the Federal Government they would forever maintain the building. I am unsure which obligation is overridden by the other. Frankly, I believe both are intact. I’m also sure the city will do what they can… they have already begun to forever solve the drainage issues that caused the problem to begin with. Such is the nature of caring for large, antiquated buildings.

Wish us luck, reader… we will need it!