Civil War Naval Museum Fights for its Fiscal Life

"Water Witch" Civil War Ship Replica, National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus, GA

As I moved among the crowd at the National Civil War Naval Museum rally to “save the museum,” I had to reflect on what I learned in a political science class about budgets. They are more than just numbers on a page; they are political documents because they reflect priorities.

That means that the Port Columbus National Civil War  Naval Museum is way down on Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s priority list.  A flier being circulated at a rally to “save the museum” says that the proposed city budget cuts funding to the museum by almost 70%, while many other city departments are being asked to cut only 2%.  The flier indicates the museum may have to close if the budget proposal passes unchanged. That 70 percent cut whittles down the city’s funding of the museum’ from $300,000 to about $78,000.

The museum flier says the facility generates $2, 800,000 in spending by folks who come to Columbus to visit the museum.  State Senator Josh McKoon told me he thought that a $2,800,000 return on a $300,000 investment sounded like a no-brainer to him.  He joined as a member today and encouraged  the public to support the museum, but acknowledged that the state had to cut its $70,000 grant because of the state budget shortfall.

Of course, the state nor the city has to cut funding to the museum. Governor Deal chose to do that, and the city may also choose to slash the museum’s budget.  Those choices simply mean that they value other things more.

When I pointed out to the museum’s Executive Director Bruce Smith that the Columbus Museum is under the Muscogee County School Board, he said, that it is and it gets a million dollars from the school board.  I suggested that maybe the Civil War Naval Museum should also be under the school board, and he replied, ” Teachers would never stand for that,” pointing out that they are facing furloughs.

This discussion also brings up the question of whether tax dollars should be spent on museums.  But then, if you ask that, you would also have ask if tax dollars should fund public education.  Museums are also educational, and as one volunteer told me, there is no stronger or more effective way to teach folks about the history of naval warfare during the Civil War. That’s probably true. It is an impressive facility and I would  hate to see it go.

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One Response to “Civil War Naval Museum Fights for its Fiscal Life”

  1. camwal Says:

    The naval museum has so much to offer even for long-time columbus residents. The rich history of the area is what is keeping Columbus alive in my opinion, especially with such a focus on downtown/uptown.

    I personally know CSU students and community members who have benefitted from internships and experiences with Port Columbus, such an important entity should not go unsupported.

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