Holland Land Office Museum weathering COVID crisis

BRIAN QUINN/DAILY NEWSDirector Ryan Duffy said the Holland Land Office Museum cut where it could due to closure from March to June, but also didn’t have the costs it would have faced if it had been open during that time.

BATAVIA — The Holland Land Office Museum did what it could to reduce expenses during the roughly 3 1/2 months it was closed due to COVID-19.

It is also prepared to do more if the county’s allocation to the museum is reduced.

Director Ryan Duffy said Wednesday that the museum furloughed a part-time marketing coordinator.

“We did cut staffing,” he said. “That was another expense we cut down on. We’re hoping we can bring them back. We’re saving on their pay.”

Duffy said the 2021 museum budget submitted to Genesee County is $79,554, while the funding request made to the county is about $33,000.

He gave a departmental review for the museum at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting.

“About 43 percent of your revenue, your actual cash, comes from the county in this budget that you’ve put forward for next year,” Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said at the meeting. “If that has to be reduced, what part of your expenses would you see being reduced maybe just to cover that?”

Duffy said some of the programming might have to be reduced depending on whether the museum is able to supplement expenses with other funding.

“Possibly exhibits — any spending on that, we might have to reduce,” he said. “ Maybe even some of the equipment, we might not purchase something we were considering. There’s areas, across the board, we might be able to just cut a little bit and maybe make up some of that ground.”

Stein asked how expenses have been reduced or whether the museum has a reserve fund that will help

“We cut in several areas,” Duffy told the committee. “By being closed, we naturally reduced costs that we weren’t going to be using — space in the museum, things in the gift shop we weren’t having to reorder because we weren’t going through them as fast.

“We did reduce in what areas we could in order to at least lessen the impact as much as we could,” he continued. “We do have some reserves available in order to help as a stop-gap.

“(Expenses are) something we are cognizant of looking forward and trying to look for other revenues. That’s something else we’ve been working on — trying to work on more grant revenue if we can,” he said.

Duffy said the museum got a $2,500 grant through Humanities New York’s HNY CARES Emergency Relief program. The grant will be used for special programing.

“We’re looking to also expand our revenue input in whatever way we can,” he said.

With the museum being open from Tuesdays through Saturdays, Stein asked, “Would you imagine that Sunday might be a good day for visitors from out of town?”

Duffy said that’s always a possibility, but added, “What we’ve looked at is, following the trends of the industry, most are closed on Sunday. I guess ... I’m willing to look at it, but we also have to look at who’s going to be at the museum, how that would impact ... I don’t know exactly how that would play out for us if we were open on Sundays.”

Stein said the Le Roy House, which had been getting about 10,000 visitors a year, had gotten the bulk of its visitors on Saturdays and Sundays.

“I would offer that as a peer comparison,” she said.

She also said one of the newer forms of support for organizations is AmazonSmile. Under Amazon Smiles, when someone shops online at smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate to his or her favorite charitable organization.

Duffy said, “We have signed up for that program and we’ve been using that. We signed up for that program in May.”

Human Services Committee Chairman Gary Maha asked whether the museum’s revenue has taken a hit since it’s been closed for a few months.

Duffy said the museum shut down at the beginning of March and remained closed until June 30.

“Yes, we experienced a revenue drop just like everybody else,” he said. “We went three months without, really, any revenue from visitorship. We still were able to gain some revenue from our bookstore, through online and phone sales.

“I’m still at the museum some of the time,” he continued. “We lost our fund-raising opportunity — two of our biggest ones, we weren’t able to do this year our antique show and our summer program. Our other monthly programs that we ran, we weren’t able to do either.”

Since reopening, visits to the museum have returned to the levels they were before,” he said.

Generally, the museum did the best it could to cope with the closure.

“During that time, we stepped up our online programming and tried to at least maintain our interaction with the community and offer whatever knowledge and entertainment we could through digital means versus personal means,” Duffy said. “We started what we call quarantine programs to give people some interesting activities they could do while they were stuck at home. This included Exhibit Me Program, where we ask people to talk about their own items from their own personal lives ... and make their own exhibit that we then displayed on our website. We made Genesee County JeoPARDY, where people could test their local history knowledge online, and several other programs in order to focus on different aspects of history ... That’s how we tried to fill the gap while we weren’t allowed to be open. “Since we’ve been open, we’ve gone through some major changes,” he said.

Duffy said the museum started an admission policy.

“Previously, we had our admission strictly on suggested donations. However, we realized that, with the changing times — not only through COVID, but just in terms of expenses ... to hopefully fill that gap a little bit better — we went to a small admission fee,” he said. “It’s $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, veterans and students, and $1 for children, and then $10 for a family of four.”

While the museum was closed, online programming increased, he noted. One feature has been the Artifact Video Series on YouTube.

“I go on and I talk about a particular artifact or topic in the museum and do a 5-10-minute video. The response we’re getting may vary, but we’re getting between 30 and 50 views every time and they’re up all the time, so they keep adding up,” Duffy said. “This has brought in a new audience that we did not have any interaction with before. I’m quite proud that that’s gotten a response. To have people walk up on the streets and say ‘Hey, I saw your video last night,’ I can’t say that’s ever happened to me before.”

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