NORWALK, Conn. The city is looking for a "different direction" for Norwalk's historical artifacts, according to Mayor Richard Moccia, who has organized a panel of Norwalk leaders and other concerned citizens to decide what that might be.
Moccia has proposed closing the Norwalk Museum as part of the 2012-13 budget, a measure that has drawn criticism. His Museum Restructuring Committee will come up with suggestions and alternatives before June 30, when the lease expires on the museum's space at 41 Main St.
Moccia said he and Finance Director Thomas Hamilton have been attempting to renegotiate the lease but have not been successful. One goal for the committee is to winnow down the amount of space the city needs to rent by eliminating items in the museum's collection that are not historically relevant.
"I think we need a different direction," Moccia said. "I think we need to make the documents and exhibits more available to the people on a regular basis, on the evenings or the weekends if possible. We're not shutting the door on the museum in my mind. We're opening the door to the public to have a better opportunity to see our history."
The committee members are:
Rick McQuaid , town clerk and former Common Council member;
David Westmoreland , president of the Norwalk Historical Society and vice chairman of the Historical Commission ;
Patsy Brescia , chairman of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum's Board of Directors;
David Park , past chairman of the Norwalk Historical Commission ;
Judith Bacal , director of exhibits at the Maritime Aquarium and former exhibit design coordinator at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago ;
James Brown , Norwalk Public Library head cataloger ;
Scott Lannon Wands , Heritage Resource Center and field services director for the Connecticut Humanities Council ;
Mary Alice Fitzgerald , retired educator and consultant for Measured Progress ;
Mary Roman, vice president and secretary of the Norwalk Rotary Club and past employee of the Norwalk Museum ;
James Clark , Board of Estimate and Taxation member ;
Charles Yost, Historical Commission member; and
Miklos Koleszar , estate planning attorney.
Westmoreland and McQuaid are co-chairmen of the committee. "Closing and putting a key in the door and everything like that, I want to make that the last resort," McQuaid said. "That makes it sound like we're just turning the key on history, and we're starting over anew the next day. I think what we have, we need to share it."
He hopes the group can make traveling exhibits and possibly take the items to schools.
The committee will seek out other locales where the public could have access to the historical artifacts and will try to keep the museum open more often, Moccia said.
He proposed making the museum a nonprofit. "I can't go into another lease that's going to cost us with labor and everything else $2 million for 10 years," Moccia said. "It just can't be done. I don't want to say we're the only one, but I don't know too many cities that actually fund the (history) museum."
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