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Museums Receiving Financial Support

Some local museums are receiving much-needed financial support from the state during the pandemic.

Baker Mansion and the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum are two of the most significant historical landmarks in Blair County and in the region.

But this year, many museums in the commonwealth saw revenues come to a screeching halt.

“The loss was significant, in the six-figures,” said Joseph DeFrancesco, executive director of the Railroaders Heritage Corporation.

Francesco oversees operations at Altoona’s historic Horseshoe Curve, which opened on a limited basis in June, and the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, a site that remained closed throughout 2020.

“We wound up keeping the railroad museum site in Altoona shut down just simply because it would be strategically too much on the organization to open because of the restrictions,” DeFrancesco said.

Other local museums have also been forced to adjust.

Baker Mansion was open as recently as last week, previewing their holiday and end of the year schedule online, but on Tuesday the museum decided to close for the season, citing rising Coronavirus cases in the area.

For the railroaders museum, the lost revenue brought difficult decisions.

“Cuts across the board,” DeFrancesco said. “Every aspect of expenses and operations, we had to make the cuts.”

Some relief is on the way.

Both Baker Mansion and the railroaders museum will receive thousands of dollars in grants from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission.

DeFrancesco said the railroaders museum has also received close to $20,000 in Blair County CARES Act funding.

“We’re very fortunate to be getting what we’re getting from the CARES money, but I will say it’s not enough to restore the losses,” he said.

DeFrancesco hopes the museum can return to operations in the spring, but that doesn’t mean it will be full steam ahead.

“With the cuts we made, we simply salvaged and saved the organization,” he said. “It’s going to take us some time to recoup and get back on track to make up for lost time.”

DeFrancesco is eyeing a potential April return for the railroader museum, but he’s playing it by ear.

He said the museum appreciates community support and donations. The organization is launching a membership campaign for people to get involved.

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