After seven years of near-subsistence survival, the U.S. Sen. Paul Simon Museum in Troy will close at the end of the month, said President and Civics Program Adviser Regina Dunbar Hendrickson.
Tight city budgets, difficult fund raising and a general lack of participation by volunteers has doomed the effort, she said.
"We kept looking to the city (for funding,)" she said. "But we learned after several years that was not going to happen. The city was not in a financial position to do anything."
Village leaders felt that the museum was not the most efficient use of the tourism dollars that were funding the museum, she said. Village contributions dropped from a high of $8,000 one year to about $2,000.
The museum has many materials from Simon on exhibit and also sponsors an outreach program to teach civics to young people called the U.S. Sen. Paul Simon Youth Civics Education and Leadership Program.
"I think the program became the real heartbeat of the museum," Hendrickson said. "I said in 2007 when I took over that the senator would have wanted to see something proactive in his memory that reached out to kids."
Simon bought a weekly newspaper in Troy in 1948 at age 20, becoming a crusading journalist and later a progressive politician.
Hendrickson, a Troy alderwoman, took over the leadership of the museum from a former alderman, Darrell Hampsten, who moved out of the area.
The board of directors put a lot of effort into deciding the fate of the museum, she said. A lower city contribution and the difficulty of having enough fund raisers to survive was the key factor in closing.
"We don't have enough money to continue to have a roof over our heads," she said. "Everything was on a volunteer basis and as volunteers age, sometimes it is hard to find enough people to do all the work."
The museum opened in July of 2005 at 800 S. Main St. in Troy. It later moved to 118 Market St. and then to 542 Edwardsville Road. It never drew the kind of foot traffic that would bring it renown, Hendrickson said. It originally was open parts of two days a week and then one day a week. It is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. to noon the next two Saturdays before closing for good.
Some of the material will be distributed to city hall for display and some will go to other places like the Tri-Township Public Library. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will get some of the written material. The civic program materials will go to libraries and schools in hope it will continue to be used.
Hendrickson said she has a long association with the Simon family which helped her revive a young Democrats organization in Southern Illinois years ago. She later worked as an intern for Simon in Washington, D.C. and worked for his presidential campaign.
She holds out hope that sometime in the future all the material will be gathered again in a single place.
"I think the senator would be looking at all this and kind of chuckling," she said. "I think if he had a choice between being enshrined in a memorial or having active programs honoring him, his choice would be clear."
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