Museum complex vote a shame


The Chart

Elizabeth Flanigan

In addition to the City Council race on April 6, there was a question on the ballot about converting Memorial Hall into a museum.

This question included a one-sixth of a cent sales tax to completely renovate Joplin’s Memorial Hall into the new Joplin Museum Complex facility. This tax would have been continuous to help pay for up keep and other upgrades to the building.

I can understand that we are just now coming through a major recession, but for the voters of Joplin to defeat by a margin of 4-1 a measure that so clearly represents growth is astonishing to me.

According to interviews on The Joplin Globe’s Web site, people agree the current museum building is crowded and that it needs a new facility so the only major argument against the proposition is the fact that as a Memorial Hall it should be dedicated to veterans.

The plans for the museum renovation include a wing dedicated to the memory of area veterans as well as meeting space for their use and for rent. This would retain the original intent for the use of Memorial Hall as well as foster greater community interaction within the four walls of the building, something I think all veterans would value.

The sales tax, while perpetual, would be a small price to pay for the increased business opportunities that the new museum would create. In addition to immediate employment opportunities like construction and new museum staff, the increased number of people that could be served by the building would increase traffic for downtown businesses and allow visitors to see the other renovation work happening on Main Street.

Another plus of upgrading the museum is to be able to offer travelling exhibits and become a Smithsonian affiliate, much like Union Station in Kansas City.  This would enable exhibits like the Dead Sea Scrolls and Bodies to be exhibited in Joplin for the benefit of children and adults.

The increased size would also allow the display of more of the amazing rock and mineral samples native to this area that have made the museum so incredible.

But apparently those benefits are far outweighed by the fact that there may be one less place to hold medium-sized (at best) events in Joplin.

Memorial Hall only seats 2,712 people and regularly loses concerts and other events to the nearby casinos because of the seating and layout restriction.

In fact, the Joplin Memorial Hall Web site mentions only four events for the rest of 2010 and one of those is the Farmer’s Market.

Memorial Hall is unable to support itself and is in bad need of renovation anyway and what better way to boost education and economic development in downtown Joplin than to combine with the museum?

But I guess the voters just are not ready yet. What a shame.