Board votes to file for dissolution after exhaustive search for alternative options
Lowell, MA – June 14, 2016—Despite its best efforts to identify a viable and sustainable future for the American Textile History Museum, the ATHM Board of Trustees has voted to seek approval from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and Supreme Judicial Court to dissolve the Museum’s 501(c)(3) and permanently close its doors.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for all involved and certainly not the outcome we had hoped and worked for,” said ATHM Board Chair Matthew Coggins. “However, the Board recognizes that serious operational challenges, financial shortfalls, and other circumstances make it impossible to ethically and responsibly dedicate further financial assets to attempt to keep our doors open.” Exhausted alternatives
Operating at a significant deficit for the past two decades, the Museum has been continuously drawing on shrinking reserves to balance the budget. Over the past seven months, the Board has gathered and analyzed extensive data in consultation with the Nonprofit Finance Fund and Laura Roberts Consulting, but has been unable to identify a viable and sustainable business model that would allow ATHM to continue. A fundraising feasibility study indicates that the Museum would likely be unable to raise sufficient funds to adequately support future operations.
Next steps and protection of the collection
All ATHM exhibits are now closed to the public; all programs and classes are closed as of June 30, 2016. In Massachusetts, a public charity can voluntarily dissolve only with the close involvement of the Attorney General’s Office and the approval of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. ATHM has begun that process. Protecting and preserving the Museum’s priceless collection of American artifacts is the priority of the ATHM Board, which is working closely with the Attorney General’s Office to ensure the collection’s long-term stewardship in the coming months.
Continued need for support
ATHM is continuing to gratefully accept funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations to support the thousands of curatorial hours necessary to ensure the proper care of collections as they are prepared to be transferred to other organizations that can provide faithful and long-term stewardship, according to ATHM Interim Executive Director Todd Smith. “We are asking that all who share a love of and concern for America’s history and heritage help us preserve and protect the Museum’s unparalleled collection of American artifacts.”
“Look at all the good we’ve done”
Christopher Rogers, a member of the ATHM Board of Advisors and the grandson of Caroline Stevens Rogers—who founded ATHM in 1960—said that the closure of ATHM will be a sad day, but that his grandmother was a big believer in change when change is needed. “She’d be the first to cry for a minute for the loss, but then say, ‘It’s been incredible. Look at all the good we’ve done.’”
Founded in 1960 and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the American Textile History Museum (ATHM) in Lowell, Massachusetts, has been an unparalleled resource of knowledge about an industry that helped define the course of this country—and continues to shape our world today. With a mission to tell America’s story through the art, science, and history of textiles, ATHM houses the most significant integrated textile history collection in North America, with thousands of books, manuscripts, and images; millions of textile samples, flat textiles, and articles of clothing; as well as hundreds of textile-making tools and machines. The Osborne Library alone contains more than 90,000 books, manuscripts, postcards, trade literature, images, and periodicals. The Chace Catalogue provides online access to the artifact collections at www.athm.org. In addition to its core exhibit, the Museum offered rotating special exhibits, family-friendly interactive centers, events, lectures, classes, and workshops. Learn more at www.athm.org.