Petersburg group wants city-owned museums transferred to foundation

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PETERSBURG, Va. –A group of 30 Petersburg citizens has been quietly meeting since May, on how to best keep tourism in alive in Petersburg.

They understand that amid a budget crisis, the time is fast approaching when the museum doors will be closed.

The group said they have a good grasp on the city’s needs, and what it will take to keep the doors open.

"I don't want them to close because I think they're historically relevant to the City of Petersburg and it's history of the whole city,” said tour guide Gene Ross.

Ross has spent more than 24 years as an employee paid to tell visitors about Petersburg’s history.

But with the city's Museums and Tourism Departments facing complete budget cuts, he's willing to volunteer his time, if the doors can stay open.

"It may be two to three days a week perhaps, something like that or depending on what happens,” Ross said.

The grass roots effort is focused on keeping the doors open for at Centre Hill Mansion and at historic Blandford Church.

"Since 1915, when the windows were installed, there's always been an opportunity to see the Tiffany windows,” said Chip Mann, who is leading the effort to keep museums open.

“It is necessary that a nonprofit relieves city government of the responsibility,” said Atiba Muse, a community organizer.

"Volunteers can help support the city's museum's during this time of economic turmoil,” Mann said.

October 1 is the date when many expect the doors will close for good if the group isn't successful.

"We are talking about how can there be a seamless transfer of city-owned museums to a foundation so that we don't lose the opportunity to tell the story of Petersburg,” Mann said.

Many residents believe that tourism will increase in the hands of a nonprofit, and generate more tax dollars.

"We have to maintain the integrity of the museum and tourism industry in Petersburg, as necessary for revenue,” Muse said.

The group added that nonprofit management could mean the story of Petersburg could be told in a much different way than it has for nearly a century.

Not only could visitors be exposed to the Civil War, but also the Revolutionary War, Pocahontas Island, the Jarrett house, and more.

They hope new discussion could bring new visitors, along with more revenue to the city.