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501(c)(3) group in talks to take over operations of Saxonburg Museum

SAXONBURG — The borough is in talks to potentially hand operational control of the Saxonburg Museum to the Friends of Saxonburg Museum, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization which is dedicated to financially supporting the museum’s operations.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday night, April 16, borough council voted to begin negotiations to draft a lease agreement for the friends group to take over the museum’s operations from the borough.

According to museum curator Fred Caesar, this takeover would bring substantial financial benefits for the museum and the borough should it go through as planned.

“It would give us more opportunities to raise money for the museum, the workshop, and ... the replica of the Brooklyn Bridge,” Caesar said. “This would take a burden off the borough. The borough would still own it, but we would maintain it and operate it.”

Located on the museum grounds on North Rebecca Street is the original workshop of the borough’s founder, John Roebling. Two hundred years ago in that workshop, Roebling concocted the wire rope that would hold up the Brooklyn Bridge and other suspension bridges.

Attached to the workshop is a miniature-scale replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was once used as a parade float before being pinned to the site of the workshop.

For years, the Saxonburg Museum has sought donations and grants to remedy structural problems with both of those historical treasures. The foundation of the old workshop is slowly sinking into the ground, and an engineering study estimated it would cost roughly $250,000 to repair. In addition, the bridge replica is showing signs of cracking.

Caesar said the museum would be able to go after a wider range of grants under the operational control of a 501(c)(3) group.

“Around the state, several museums are actually operated by 501(c)(3)s, and that opens up a door for grants that the borough could not receive, but the 501(c)(3)s can get,” Caesar said. “It opens up another avenue to maintain and restore all of our historical structures.”

During the meeting’s public comment period, Brooke Wamsley, a member of the Friends of Saxonburg Museum board, spoke in support of the idea of the group taking operational control of the museum.

“I’m really hoping that we can come to some kind of agreement that the friends can take over the museum so we can raise the necessary and appropriate funds for not only the wire rope workshop, but also for the bridge,” Wamsley said.

Caesar said he will still have a part to play in the operation of the museum if the transition goes through as planned.

“I told them I would continue as a volunteer curator,” Caesar said.

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