Museum supporters ‘desperate’ for city’s aid

Published 4:54 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

One of the buildings discussed during Monday’s Public Buildings Committee meeting was the Smitherman Building, formally known as the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.

During the meeting, committee members discussed plans to replace the air conditioning units at the museum, which were stolen last year.

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton has sought guidance from the council regarding when to replace the units, fearing that doing so too soon might allow thieves another opportunity to steal the brand-new units.

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Two insurance claims have already been filed on behalf of the building, since the units were stolen in two separate instances, leaving the city on the hook for $10,000 worth of deductible payments – $5,000 per incident.

But while city leaders go back and forth on how and when to install the necessary units, the Friends of the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum have already been hard at work repairing the old building.

According to Anna Speir, a member of the museum’s advocacy group, the organization has already spent some $30,000 repairing and maintaining the historic building on the corner of Union Street and Alabama Avenue.

Speir said that money has been used for stripping windows, water-proofing the building, maintaining the premises and a variety of other efforts.

Additionally, Speir said the organization has hired a part-time employee to oversee the daily functions of the museum, which makes the city’s assertion that the lack of manpower leaves the museum at risk of more theft frustrating for Speir and others.

“We are desperate,” Speir said.

Speir noted that the museum is one of the most affordable rental spaces in the city and that, already, there are events planned to be based out of the space – most notably the upcoming Selma Pilgrimage, scheduled for March 15.

Further, the artifacts housed in the museum are at great risk as the weather warms and the building continues to go without air conditioning.

Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson’s ward houses the museum and she is planning to meet with Speir and others Wednesday afternoon to discuss the historic home’s needs.

“I’m elated to know they are willing to work with the city,” Jackson said. “Whatever I can do to help them, I’m happy to do it.”

For her part, Jackson supports installing the air conditioning units as quickly as possible, as well as additional security measures to ensure the units are as safe as possible.

The Vaughan-Smitherman Museum resides in a Greek Revival building and is one of the most historic landmarks in the city. The museum houses an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts, Victorian antiques and more.