Keep museum

I would like to clarify some of the statements that have been made about the relationship between the DeKalb Park Board and the Ellwood House Association.

The association’s board employed a museum director in 1982. While his payroll was processed by the park district, and partially paid for by the district’s museum tax, he was neither hired nor supervised by the park board or its director. He was not considered a park district employee until the park board approved a job description for this position (without the input or consent of the association’s board) on Aug. 22, 1991.

Park districts in Illinois do allow not-for-profit associations to control their own staffs in operating museums on property owned by the districts. Rockford Museum Center is a nearby example of this arrangement.

Proposals for an addition to the carriage house have been discussed by association’s board for over seven years. During that entire time a park board representative served as an ex- officio member of Ellwood House Board. The park district director was interviewed during a feasibility study for the carriage house fund-raising project. At no time did the park director or any Park Board member express any concerns or objections. Why would they be opposed to private donations paying for improvements (temperature/humidity control, education/meeting room, restrooms) to their building that would enhance the community’s use of Ellwood House Museum? The fee paid to a professional fund-raising firm was money given by a private donor specifically for that purpose.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible in recent months to continue the fund drive, due to uncertainties resulting from the park board’s request for changes in its lease agreement with Ellwood House Association.

The Ellwood property was deeded to the DeKalb Park District in 1964, with the understanding that the DeKalb County Fine Arts Association (later renamed Ellwood House Association) would provide the funding and the volunteer effort to establish a museum. No museum tax revenues went to the operation of the museum until ten years later, after the association had already spent thousands of dollars and hours of volunteer time converting a very run-down building into a museum containing furnishings and other artifacts donated to the association by the Ellwood family and others.

In recent years, the Ellwood House Association has continued its program of major financial support. From 1981-1991, the park district’s museum tax funds made up 31.1 percent of the museum’s revenue, while the association provided 56.3 percent. (Admissions contributed 12.6 percent.) During that time, the association spent over $250,000 on restoration and repairs of the park district’s property. In addition, the association provided thousands of hours of unpaid volunteer work.

The bottom line is that our tax-supported park board should be anxious to continue working with an organization that has the know-how, the enthusiasm, and the resources (privately-funded endowment income) to continue operating and improving Ellwood House Museum. It is the hope of the board of the Ellwood House Association that our relationship with the DeKalb Park Board and its director can soon return to the mutually-beneficial partnership that has existed in the past.

Patsy Lundberg

Ellwood House Assoc. Board