Discovery Center ‘getting back to it’
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]
The Harrison County Discovery Center has faced challenges since opening in late 2016 and now will look to hire a new director of historical assets, a position which includes oversight of the center, after Barb Ehinger announced her retirement at the county’s parks board meeting Jan. 27.
Ehinger, in a written letter, thanked parks superintendent Larry Shickles and the parks board “for having the faith and trust in me to give me the opportunity to ‘launch’ this new museum when it opened. I have truly enjoyed the four years I’ve been working at the Discovery Center, helping it grow as a contributing member of the parks system and the town of Corydon.”
Prior to giving each board member a copy of the letter, Ehinger gave an update on the Discovery Center.
“Things were growing, going up,” she said in terms of revenue in what she referred to as the “three big ticket areas”: merchandise, ticket sales and room rental. “Then 2020 hit.”
Amid the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group that was renting one of the two meetings rooms at the Discovery Center closed for three months.
“We’re getting back to it,” Ehinger said of income at the museum. “We have guests almost every day. There’s room rentals.”
Ehinger, who retired from teaching school after 34 years prior to taking the director of historical assets positions here, talked about how she developed curriculum to meet state standards so teachers could bring their students and the growth of school groups visiting the Discovery Center.
“Then 2020 hit,” she said. “I’m confident they’ll come back.”
A fairly new area of focus Ehinger found is the Blue Star Museums, which is affiliated with the military. The Discovery Center is listed in a directory used by military members and their families looking for places to visit.
A program the Discovery Center became involved with 2019 is funded through the Fun through the Arts, which allows children to visit locations in the program for free.
Ehinger said the program initially gave $500 to the Discovery Center, which made $5,379.50 the first year.
Last year, the program switched to virtual due to the pandemic. Ehinger said Discovery Center staff made three activity videos — one about pioneer games, another called the Liar’s Bench and a third is a tour of the Battle of Corydon cabin — and to date has made $3,000.
“I’m impressed with what you were able to do … given the circumstances,” said board member Scott Fluhr.
Ehinger called the Discovery Center “a beautiful facility” with reasonably priced rental fees.
“That back room is gorgeous,” she said.
Because of past comments about the Discovery Center’s finances, Ehinger said she “googled” the question: Do museums ever make money?
She said the answer was no; they depend on funding.
“They were created to provide a service to the community, to draw people in,” she said, adding the hope then is those visitors will go to the attractions and sites they learn about.
“I’m very proud of what the Discovery Center has become,” Ehinger said.
Shickles, who commented usage of the Discovery Center is unbelievable, predicted 2021 will be another “dry” year as the pandemic continues.
“We probably won’t see school groups until 2022,” he said.
Ehinger said 2020 was an eye opener for her, which led to her decision to retire. Her last day is scheduled for March 25.
“You’ve done a great job,” said Teresa Sutton, board president.
It was noted that the Harrison County Bicentennial Quilt is on display at the Discovery Center through Feb. 26. There is no charge to view the quilt.
Earlier in the meeting, Sutton was re-elected to serve as board president and Fluhr was selected to serve as vice president. Alex Wiseman, who was not at the meeting, will serve as secretary for 2021.
Two new board members — Carolyn Lowe and Greg Reas — were welcomed. They succeed Lori Clark, whose term expired at the end of 2020, and Heather Davis, who stepped down due to work obligations.
The parks board decided to move its meetings to the Harrison County Discovery Center. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m.