Just a few questions were asked at Monday’s public gathering on the plan.
By Bob Jackson
YOUNGSTOWN — Barring any unforeseen developments, the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor will be under new management Jan. 1.
Youngstown State University is poised to take over management of the facility, commonly known as the steel museum, from the Ohio Historical Society. The boards of both organizations will meet Wednesday to vote on the proposed management agreement, which was the subject of a public meeting Monday evening at the museum.
After no one among the 25 or so people at the meeting expressed any opposition, officials from both YSU and the OHS said they expect there to be no problems with approving the agreement, which would go into effect at the beginning of the year.
“We certainly are looking forward to this agreement,” said Jim Strider, acting executive director of the OHS. “We believe that to exist in the 21st century, organizations like ours need to be collaborative with local partners. We think YSU will be an outstanding partner in this endeavor.”
Under terms of the agreement, the OHS will retain ownership and responsibility for capital improvements of the facility, located on West Wood Street between Wick and Fifth avenues. OHS also will be the primary conduit for major grant funds, said George Kane, OHS director of historic sites and facilities.
YSU will be responsible for the daily operation of the facility, which was built in 1989 and opened a year later. That includes things such as establishing admission fees, deciding whether to have a gift shop on the premises and scheduling programming. Any revenue generated locally will remain here, Kane said.
He said university and the historical society will essentially split the museum’s operating costs.
“I think we have come up with a great agreement that will serve the needs of the university, the OHS and the [museum],” Kane said in his remarks during the meeting.
Shearle Furnish, dean of YSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, which includes the history department, said the merger is a “good fit for the university because YSU and the OHS have a mutual interest in education and in preservation of history.”
Some YSU history students already work at the museum as interns.
Furnish said that if the agreement is approved, the university hopes to increase public use of the museum.
“The community loves this facility and will appreciate efforts to keep it open,” he said.
Richard Scarsella, a member of the volunteer group Friends of the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor & Industry, said he is concerned that the volunteer board’s input will be “marginalized” if the university takes over operation of the museum.
“Local sensibilities have to be taken into consideration,” he added.
But Furnish and Strider said their organizations each will welcome input from the group.
Most of the people who attended the meeting were affiliated with either YSU, the OHS or the Friends of the Steel Museum.
Strider and Kane said they did not perceive the low general-public attendance as indicative of low community interest.
“I think people have just been kept informed as this process has moved along, and there really were very few questions remaining,” Kane said.