Will three museums combine under one roof? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Will three museums combine under one roof?

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Albany- Albany Tomorrow President Tommy Chatmon says moving three Albany museums to a central site would save money and boost attendance.

Friday, some board members from Thronateeska, the Museum of Art, and the Civil Rights Movement Museum heard a plan to consolidate the cultural attractions to a downtown location.

Right now, you would have to drive all over Albany to visit the Civil Rights Museum, Thronateeska, and the Museum of Art. Only Thronateeska is within walking distance of new popular attractions like the Riverquarium and Riverfront Park. That would change if the three museums agreed to come together under one roof downtown.

But the idea of consolidation has some concerned the museums' identities and histories would be lost.

In the last few years, attendance, donations, and revenue have been low at museums and cultural centers in Albany and across the country. So, museum boards and community leaders are constantly looking for ways to bring back visitors and their money. "We have cut, cut, cut. It's time for us to stop cutting cost and start sharing some of our expenses," said Aaron Berger of the Albany Museum of Art.

Sharing expenses and a roof is the latest idea from Albany Tomorrow. ATI introduced a plan to re-locate the three museums to an undetermined site downtown. Each museum is set to receive about $3 million in tax money from SPLOST Five.

ATI President Tommy Chatmon says the museums have two options. "To move forward and create three relatively small venues or create one venue that would be of a major magnitude similar to the Flint Riverquarium."

Chatmon says if the museums pool their tax money, they could build an impressive cultural center in a high traffic location. "The idea has been talked about for sometime kind of in the abstract. This is the first time we've been able to sit down and really look at the possibilities to see if this is something that can work for us."

But museum executives we're immediately skeptical their identities would be lost, along with their historical significance, if they moved. Kenneth Cutts with the Albany Civil Rights Movement Museum says the museum site, the old Mt. Zion church, is part of its history. "I think that we would insist that the current museum at the old Mt. Zion Church to be made apart of the Civil Rights Movement experience."

ATI's answer - there could be a bus tour bringing visitors to the historical church. "We understand it's a very sensitive issues. We would expect each board would retain its own mission, vision, and identity."

The museum executives said they will now discuss the proposal with other board members, weighing the pros and cons of coming together under one roof.

Each board would continue to run its museum. President Tommy Chatmon says ATI would only be the developer. Design plans for the expansion of Thronateeska and the Civil Right's Museum were temporarily put on hold until the board decided if they want to build a central cultural center downtown.

ATI announced several proposed sites for the cultural center, including the Albany Herald Parking lot on Washington Street, or old Mule Barn and the land surrounding it on Broad Avenue. But no location is set in stone.

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