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Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum Still in Jeopardy

By Harriet Staff

The saga of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum continues.

From the second of a three-part series in the Baltimore Post-Examiner:

When the city excised its funding for Edgar Alan Poe House and Museum from its $1.6 billion 2011 budget, the cut set off an unfortunate domino effect. The E.A. Poe Society, which had operated the museum for almost 30 years, and Baltimore’s Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) were told that the museum had to come up with a plan to be self-sufficient in 18 months. Similar transitions usually take anywhere from three to five years. Still, the die was cast. CHAP engaged a consultant to devise a workable plan while the house remained open; subsisting on a small nest-egg and money raised from special events and charitable contributions.

Many wonder why the city would put the small museum into such a precarious situation. Others worry that the house could some day end up on the auction block.

The Poe House is owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore and leased to the city for operation. Baltimore made national news last winter when City Hall announced it was considering selling or leasing 15 historic landmarks. These included The Shot Tower (once the tallest structure in America), the War Memorial building, the Civil War Museum on President Street and Orianda House in Leakin Park. Noting that these, and other historic properties are simply sitting dormant, Thomas J. Stosur, the city’s director of planning told The Baltimore Sun, “Just having somebody inside (of these properties) would help the city. Hopefully, we could also earn some revenue off it as well.”

It is hard to say how much revenue the city has earned annually from the Poe House. Attendance figures for the museum were never kept, though Stosur told The Baltimore Post-Examiner that estimates for attendance at the museum and related events run from 3,000 to 5,000 fans a year. At a modest admission price to the museum of only $4, even 5,000 visitors annually might seem like a losing proposition. But studies show there are a number of other benefits in maintaining a vibrant Poe presence in Baltimore, and City Hall is not alone in seeing that windfall.

In the report, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV : The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences in The City of Baltimore, Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, notes that:

“Communities that draw cultural tourists experience an additional boost of economic activity. Tourism industry research has repeatedly demonstrated that arts tourists stay longer and spend more than the average traveler. Thirty-two percent of attendees live outside the county in which the arts even took place, and their event-related spending is more than twice that of their local counterparts (nonlocal: $39.96 vs. local: $17.42). The message is clear: a vibrant arts community not only keeps residents and their discretionary spending close to home, it also attracts visitors who spend money and help local businesses thrive.” The report goes on to add that, “Local businesses that cater to the arts and culture audiences reap the rewards of this economic activity.”

The city’s myopic view of the humanities is only one of the museum’s present problems. Compounding the possible closing of the Poe House are issues with redevelopment in the surrounding neighborhood and infighting between City Hall and CHAP.

The Poppleton neighborhood (where the Poe House and Museum is located) has been experiencing a much needed revival. Entire plots of land have been cleared, and just two blocks south a surging bio-tech park is taking shape. Unfortunately, plans to redevelop some of the Poppleton area have been put on hold.

Full article here.


Posted in Poetry News on Friday, September 7th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.