LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A Louisville museum known for its strong connection to arms and armor is planning a big expansion amid efforts to broaden its appeal with exhibits emphasizing history.
The expansion space at the Frazier International History Museum will be devoted largely to educational efforts.
The facility opened as the Frazier Historical Arms Museum until the name change in mid-2006. At the time, the museum officials said they hoped to broaden the perception of the facility.
The Frazier, which opened in spring 2004, "has a wonderful collection. But we have to tell a better story," Madeleine Burnside, who has been the museum's executive director for two years, told The Courier-Journal.
Perhaps the first major thrust featuring local history was an exhibit on Fontaine Ferry that opened in mid-May. About 30,000 people viewed the exhibit during its run, which included several public discussions on the amusement park's history. The amusement park operated in western Louisville from 1905 to 1969. The 3,800-square-foot exhibit included a collection of park artifacts.
Upcoming exhibits include a World War II-themed display from Oct. 10-March 28 that will have oral histories of 48 Kentuckians who served in the war. The exhibit will have information on boot camp, the Pacific and European theaters and on the veterans coming home. Soldiers' journals and clothing of the era will be displayed, as will items that Louisville companies made during the war, including gun stocks and billy clubs made by bat-maker Hillerich & Bradsby.
Another history exhibit on tap next summer will focus on "what's real and what's not" about pirates, Burnside said.
Under a unique arrangement, the British Royal Armouries has loaned about 400 items to the Frazier, much of it medieval arms and armor. Burnside said she wants to "refocus" the materials, probably swapping out some of the weaponry for other items in the Armouries collection, including more clothing and items for women, items dating to the Bronze Age and more information on the likes of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.
Owsley Brown Frazier, who not only founded the museum but also stocked it with many weapons from his vast private collection, recently purchased a strip of land-a closed alley-immediately east of the museum and donated it to the facility.
Burnside said the plan is to add about 25,000 square feet of space on four floors of a new addition; the four-story museum now has about 100,000 square feet of space, nearly all of which is full. Burnside said the museum will try to raise $8 million to $10 million to fund the expansion-and not rely on Frazier's largesse.
The expansion plans call for: three classrooms, two "discovery rooms" mainly for children's activities; two labs to repair and prepare artifacts for display; a library, and a seminar room to be used in partnership with the University of Louisville.
The museum, with a staff of 37, has an annual budget of about $4.2 million and generates about $1.5 million a year in income-about half from admissions and most of the rest from rentals for functions.
In addition to paying for the property housing the museum and also paying for most of the cost to develop the museum, Frazier has been annually underwriting the museum's finances since it opened. Last year, to balance the bottom line, he gave the museum $3.3 million; but this fiscal year the sum to balance the budget will be about $2.75 million, said museum spokeswoman Krista McHone.
Attendance totaled about 62,000, including tour and school groups, in 2004-05, the museum's first full year. It hit a low of around 40,000 in 2006-07 and climbed back up to nearly 60,000 in 2008-09. Since May, when the Fontaine Ferry exhibit opened, more than 32,000 people have visited the Frazier.
Burnside said the five-year goal is to double the paid general admissions from a projected 50,000 this fiscal year to 100,000 in 2014-15.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.? All Rights Reserved.)