Lowell, MA – November 4, 2015—The Board of Trustees of the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, has voted to undertake a significant transformation for ATHM under a new business model.
The November 3 vote seeks to engage in strategic partnerships that will protect ATHM’s priceless collection of American artifacts while enabling the Museum to continue its mission under a new structure. Currently running at a deficit, the Museum has been depleting its shrinking reserves to balance the budget.
Not an easy decision
“This was not an easy decision nor one made lightly, but the Board recognizes that it is a necessary one to protect the Museum’s collection and mission,” said Board Chair Matt Coggins. “By closing our doors temporarily, we are opening new doors for future opportunities. We are excited and optimistic that we will find the right strategic partners to enable ATHM to preserve and protect our collection and continue to embrace our mission.”
The details and specifics of the transformation—including important decisions on the Museum’s core mission, potential partnerships, assets, programs, and staff—will be addressed over the coming weeks and months. Through December 31, 2015, the Museum’s exhibits and galleries will remain open during normal hours, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As of January 1, 2016, the Museum will temporarily close its exhibits, galleries, and gift shop to the public. Education programs will continue as scheduled, and access to ATHM’s collections as a research center will continue to be available on a limited basis.
Protecting the collection
Protecting and preserving the Museum’s priceless collection of American artifacts is the priority of the ATHM Board, which will carefully weigh available options to provide for the long-term stewardship of the ATHM collection.
The Museum transformation, including stewardship of the collection, will require significant resources, so ATHM is seeking major funding from individuals, corporations, foundations, and grant-giving trusts.
“We are asking that all who share a love of and concern for America’s textile history and heritage to help us ensure ATHM’s future success under a new, sustainable model,” said Interim Executive Director Todd Smith. “This campaign will help preserve and protect the Museum’s unparalleled collection of American artifacts, as well as enable ATHM to effectively transform and continue to fulfill our mission for generations to come.”
Ongoing financial challenges
ATHM has faced financial challenges since moving in 1997 from North Andover, Massachusetts, to its current location in Lowell, where attendance and revenue have been lower and operating costs higher than projected at the time of the move.
In 2005, the Board of Trustees voted to restructure the Museum, permanently closing the Textile Conservation Center and selling part of its Dutton Street building for conversion into mixed-use space. The Museum closed its exhibits and galleries to the public and launched a $3.9 million campaign to raise funds for a core exhibit renovation, endowment, and operating costs. The campaign goal was reached and the Museum reopened in June 2009. Despite persistent fundraising and cost reductions, the Museum has continued to run at a deficit, necessitating the use of reserve funds to balance the budget.
Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the American Textile History Museum, located at 491 Dutton St., in Lowell, Massachusetts, is an unparalleled resource of knowledge about an industry that helped define the course of this country—and continues to shape our world today. With a mission to tell America’s story through the art, science, and history of textiles, ATHM houses the most significant integrated textile history collection in North America, with thousands of books, manuscripts, and images; millions of textile samples, flat textiles, and articles of clothing; as well as hundreds of textile-making tools and machines. The Osborne Library contains more than 90,000 books, manuscripts, postcards, trade literature, images, and periodicals. The Chace Catalogue provides online access to the artifact collections.