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Dakota Discovery Museum hopes for $10,000 from campaign

Lori Holmberg

Faced with a shrinking budget, Mitchell's Dakota Discovery Museum unveiled its latest fundraising campaign recently with hopes of gaining public support.

The museum's latest fundraiser -- called the Community Challenge Campaign -- arose after two anonymous contributors pledged to combine to match $5,000 in public donations to assist in funding the museum's day-to-day operational expenses.

According to Dakota Discovery Museum Executive Director Lori Holmberg, the campaign will run through March with a goal to exceed $10,000, including public donations and the $5,000 match.

Holmberg said contributions to fund the museum's operating expenses are the most difficult to attract, but it's those expenses that make up the largest portion of the museum's budget.

"Things behind the scenes have a set cost of their own," Holmberg said, adding the donations are vital to the creation of public exhibits and making collections available to researchers.

Since 2009, the Dakota Discovery Museum's budget has fallen from $240,000 to the $156,000 budget proposed for 2012. The museum has only one full-time and one part-time employee and relies on a group of around 40 volunteers to help run its programs.

Holmberg attributed the museum's financial troubles to the unstable economy.

"Most of our contributors are fairly well-established through investments, and they got nervous when everything started going south," she said.

The economic situation was also to blame for two museum employees being let go in 2009, said Holmberg.

But despite a shrinking budget and staff, the museum has managed to continue work on various projects, including a two-year project to organize and safely store around 6,000 photographs, as well as an $84,000 art-storage project to safely house the museum's 280 pieces of original artwork.

The museum was just recently awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to purchase acid-free boxes to preserve the museum's collection of historic textiles, which includes dresses, costumes and other artifacts dating from the 1860s to the 1940s.

"People should really support the museum, because it's a key component in being able to remember the cultural heritage of this region," Holmberg said. "A contribution to the museum really, really does help the community. Sometimes it doesn't seem visible on the surface, but it helps us to build that structure underneath to help us launch these activities."