The S.C. military museum considering a $5.3 million expansion to display the Confederate flag only attracts about 22,000 visitors a year.
The S.C. Relic Room and Military Museum, which now has a state budget of $824,000 a year, averages only $60,000 in ticket and gift-shop sales annually.
Those details emerged Tuesday as a state Senate panel urged the museum’s director to increase ticket sales and raise more money from private sources.
Some S.C. lawmakers told The State last week that private donations should help pay for the plan to house and display the Confederate flag, removed from the State House grounds in July, in the Relic Room. Other lawmakers balked at a consultant’s $5.3 million estimate for displaying the flag and expanding the museum by adding a 4,600-square-foot space.
After the meeting, Relic Room director Allen Roberson told reporters that he expects the cost of displaying the Civil War banner to be lower than the $5.4 million that a consultant estimated last week. Roberson did not say how much lower.
Lawmakers have given the Relic Room until Jan. 1 to offer a detailed plan for displaying the flag in the museum, which gets about two-thirds of its $1.2 million-a-year budget from the state.
The military museum needs more space, Senate Education Committee chairman John Courson, R-Richland, said Tuesday.
But the Confederate flag display “needs to be as limited as possible,” Courson said after the Senate panel’s meeting. “I don’t want to see a theme park up there.”
However, Courson also said a consultant’s plan, presented last week, to display the flag and add a wall displaying the names of South Carolina’s Civil War dead seemed appropriate.
Courson said the museum also could increase its income and audience by focusing more exhibits on living S.C. veterans.
Roberson said an exhibit highlighting South Carolinians in the Vietnam War is slated for 2017. He also told senators that he recently revamped the museum’s membership program.
The museum sees about 22,000 visitors a year, according to the Senate panel’s report. The museum charges $6 for an adult ticket, gives discounts for youth and senior citizens, and allows children under the age of 10 and school groups in free.
Roberson said he hopes to raise some private money to pay for the Confederate flag’s display and related renovations.
The museum has a private foundation, but it has been mostly inactive until a recent push to raise money to buy a Civil War collection, he said.
Roberson told senators Tuesday that he hopes to raise between $100,000 to $150,000 by the end of the state’s fiscal year in June to help pay for that collection, which has 351 pieces “of English-imported arms and equipment used in the American Civil War,” according to the museum’s Facebook page.
S.C. Relic Room and Military Museum
By the numbers
$1.2 million: Annual budget, including about $824,000 from the state
1896: The year the Confederate Relic Room was founded by the Wade Hampton Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
3 percent: Amount of museum’s annual budget covered by ticket sales, $23,000 in the 2014-15 year
SOURCE: Senate subcommittee report on the Relic Room