As they have been for many of you, these last few months have been filled with uncertainty for us at the Sutter County Museum.
This uncertainty has been maddening: Not knowing when we could reopen, what that would look like, how to reschedule our temporary exhibits, or when we might be able to offer programs again.
Some of the uncertainty ended on June 24, when we opened our doors with reduced hours after being closed since mid-March. Our new schedule is Wednesdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
This new schedule is necessary because we rely on volunteers to work at our front desk, which includes many duties that involve interacting with the public.
The vast majority of our volunteers are senior citizens, thus at greater risk for catching the coronavirus. So, we have reduced our hours to a level that we are able to handle with the volunteers who are not in the high-risk category.
Much uncertainty still remains.
Funding remains precarious. We are a department of Sutter County, and are supported by the Museum Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Both organizations suffered enormous revenue losses due to the pandemic. Sutter County has implemented budget cuts, and the Museum Association anticipates that fundraising will be much more difficult in the coming months. The financial support from both of these entities is integral to what we do.
Besides our financial woes, museum staff has been considering current events related to economics and race.
As David Read so eloquently put it in his recent guest column, “. . . we are committed to being more thoughtful in our approach to serving our community . . . all of the community. Are we providing fair and equitable programming focused on our many ethnic groups? We know we can do better. . . Are our local arts and culture organizations reflective of the community both in terms of leadership and participants? How can we broaden our reach and appeal to each and every sector of our society?”
We have been grappling with this issue over the last few years, but current events have brought it into sharp focus. How do we ensure that a person’s economic status is not a barrier to participation?
How do we ensure that every member of our community, regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or political beliefs, feels welcome in the museum?
We pride ourselves on being an institution that exists to serve the community, but are we truly serving all of our community?
To that end, I want each and every one of you to know that we will continue to work toward this goal. We can and will do better for you.
If you would like to engage with us on how to do this, please reach out, we are always open to suggestions and collaboration.
I do want to end on a positive note. Although we are facing significant challenges, we are still planning for the future of the museum.
We are working on a master plan which will guide the redevelopment of our permanent exhibits, with the goal of telling a more cohesive story of the history of our community, which includes both Yuba and Sutter counties.
We are planning a diverse schedule of temporary exhibits for the next few years, and we recently started a Certified Farmers Market.
We are looking towards the future with some trepidation, yes, but with excitement as well. And we’re looking forward to seeing you back at the museum.