May 21, 2008

Just before Hurricane Katrina, we were told that the building where our artifacts were stored had been sold to a developer and would be converted into condominiums. We had no place to move everything that had been collected. We therefore had no choice but to give up the project and abandon the artifacts. We saved a few small items (some of which were lost in the flood) and proceeded with our virtual museum on the internet.

What follows is a narrative , and is only a brief history of our efforts.

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I feel like the patient on the operating table whose heart almost stops... Then he gets the electric shock and is brought back to life.

We have now reinstituted the board of directors with some new blood as well as those who took part before.

Waldemar Nelson had graciously donated several hundred square feet of storage space through the end of September. I had hoped to be able to acquire funds to not only continue to rent that area, but to expand to another larger room. We have been asked to move the larger equipment from the bank building at Lee Circle which the UNO foundation let us use for the past several months. As we had nowhere to move to, that equipment (which we spent two years acquiring) would have to be disposed of.

Don Cooper, Executive Director of the GNO Broadcasters Association says that they are not in the museum business and they do not have the funds to give us what we need for storage. The offer of a few hundred dollars to move the equipment we have collected was not sufficient to pursue the matter further. I had asked Don to take 20 minutes to look at the collection so that he could have an idea of our problem, but he was very busy putting together the annual awards banquet and did not take me up on my request.

We had been asked to have a display at the recent Hall of Fame banquet, but I was unable to get someone to help me put it together. Rather than have a less than professional representation, I decided not to do it.

When we moved out of the Canizaro warehouse in January we were able to secure temporary space from the Whitney Bank and the UNO Foundation (at Lee Circle). Now, both the Whitney and UNO have told us they need the space and we must vacate. Waldemar Nelson has provided us with space for a short period, but would require rent payments in the near future.

In the more than two years that we have been attempting to establish a Radio & TV Museum, we have been unable to generate any funding for the project. Requests for assistance and/or joint ventures were turned down by the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana State Museum (Old Mint), D-Day Museum, Kenner Museum complex, New Orleans Museum of Art and the University of New Orleans. Grant requests were made to both the Manship and E.J. Ourso Foundations without success.

Everyone who has reviewed our proposal for a Radio and TV museum has agreed to its long range value, but to date none have provided more direct help. Therefore, we did dissolve the board with the idea of halting the entire project. I very much regretted that it had come to this, but without funding assistance, it would be impossible to continue.

I'm sure you can appreciate what it is like to try to run a business while pulling all the strings necessary to create the museum. This has taken better than two years of my life, when a lot is going on in other areas. I wish there were someone else to take over from me, but there apparently is not.

The Old Mint location is not now available, as I had hoped, and we cannot afford to keep the storage space we are now using. No one from the University of New Orleans has ever responded to my request for a meeting to discuss a joint venture. Therefore, my last hope lay with the Historic New Orleans Collection. They have a building near the convention center which might have been available. Since it is not, it would have been necessary to return the memorabilia to those who have donated items and sell what we could of the vintage equipment to reimburse the expenses that have been incurred so far. Any excess would then go into the account of non-profit New Orleans Radio Theatre,Inc.

There have now been a couple of developments : we got an extension on the storage space (and a few hundred feet more), AND: we have been tentatively offered an HISTORIC building for the museum!!! We will have to raise the funds to BUY it, but with the historic designation, it should prove easier.

Stay tuned.

Charlie Matkin, President New Orleans Radio Theatre, Inc.

 

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