From a recent article about historic house museums in The Economist, Keeping up appearances; When federal money runs out, ingenuity is called for:
“It’s tremendous work to keep these places looking nice,” says Toby Aldridge, the resident guide at the childhood house museum of another great southern writer, Flannery O’Connor. But renovations in 2007 have improved visitor numbers since, he says, and a student helped with the paint analysis for the green-and-gold living room. So far this year more than 2,600 people have come, already more than in 2013. The author’s childhood books, such as “Five Little Peppers and How they Grew”, are on display—a far cry from the raw rural tales O’Connor would write herself.
The Economist article focuses largely on the need for additional funding at William Faulkner’s home Rowan Oak in Oxford.
Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home seems in some ways an exception to the problems facing other house museums, especially ones with a literary focus. I’m a current board member of the Childhood Home and was president of the board when we hired Toby Aldridge, quoted above, as our first employee, so I’m familiar with the foundation’s history and finances.
“Securing sufficient funds to keep historic sites up to scratch is tricky across the South,” says The Economist, and the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home has had some tough times over the last 25 years, but we are now looking for part-time administrator, have completed some major renovations thanks to the generosity of donors like Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer, have expanded programing (including the Ursrey Lecture series, Flannery O’Connor-inspired art shows, and the annual Homemade Parade), and are really in quite fine shape (even if it doesn’t always feel that way). Thanks to the frugality, ingenuity, and hard work of the Childhood Home’s founders and many volunteers since then, we’ve created a sustainable nonprofit that has never received government funding at all.
Check out this post with photos from our recent Peacock Party, which was held at the Armstrong House (now home to Bouhan Falligant):
And here’s kind of an ominous pic I took of the Childhood Home at dusk recently: