February 28-March 1 are designated as National Museums Advocacy Days 2011. The purpose of these days, organized by the American Association of Museums, is to emphasize and bring to the forefront the importance of museums in our community, state, and country. This is our chance to join with advocates and colleagues from around the country and Speak Up for Museums!
It is important to remember in these challenging economic times that museums bring much to our communities. Museums are engines of commerce, serving to boost the civic and economic climates of communities large and small. U.S. museums attract an estimated 850 million visits each year, more than all professional sporting events and theme parks combined.
So how many people do you think visit our local Sierra Madre museums every year? Although we don’t officially keep track we can guestimate. At the SMHPS’s program last Thursday night, featured speaker, Dan Richter, a local avid hiker, estimated that approximately 50,000 hikers use the Mt. Wilson Trail each year. Of course, probably many of those hikers are duplicates, but still that’s a great amount. Our local museums, Lizzie’s Trail Inn and Richardson House, rest at the foot of the Mt. Wilson Trail, so, even though they’re only open on a limited basis, they receive a lot of exposure. The SMHPS is currently working on recruiting and training more volunteers so that we will be able to increase the hours the museums are open to the public. This is one of our goals for this, our 80th anniversary year.
Also, did you know that our local museums are available for school field trips and other special events? Did you know that the museums are owned by the City of Sierra Madre, but operated by the SMHPS under a joint agreement? Part of the monies raised by the sale of the SMHPS’s latest publication, Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre by Michele Zack, is being utilized to assist the City in repairing and maintaining these museums so that they can be utilized effectively as not only repositories of historical artifacts, but also so the public can safely utilize these facilities. These two treasures are an underutilized part of our community which contain a wealth of history just awaiting your exploration!
Suffice it to say that the mission of museums is public service. That’s the message that will be carried to Congress on March 1, when some 300 museum advocates from across the country come to Capitol Hill to convey to our representatives the value – economic and otherwise – museums bring to the nation. Join us in this effort by contacting your local officials, via email or telephone or even old-fashioned letter, telling them what your museum means to you and your family. As protectors, interpreters and exhibitors of our heritages – historic, cultural, natural and scientific – museums fulfill a crucial role in America. Help us communicate that to our elected leaders on March 1 and to continue to support and improve Lizzie’s & Richardson House here in Sierra Madre.
If you are interested in joining the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society and/or assisting as a volunteer, please visit the website at www.smhps.org or phone us at 626-355-8129.