Special Announcement


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Imminent Threat to the Baltimore Poe House and Museum —
Likely Closure in 2012

Since December 18, 1977, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity Street, in West Baltimore, has been run by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), a division of the Department of Planning with the City of Baltimore. Unfortunately, the city, suffering under intense and continuing budgetary problems — and perhaps hoping that hardly anyone will notice — has decided that the Poe Museum must become self-sufficient or it must be closed. With no practical way of raising sufficient money on its own to cover the annual budget of about $85,000, closure is almost certain at the end of 2011 or early in 2012 — unless the city of Baltimore can be convinced to reconsider its position.

Is it possible that the Poe House and Museum could become self-sufficient?

The most likely answer is a resounding “no.” The City of Baltimore has requested proposals to investigate the possibility and to develop a plan by which the museum might be able to become self-sufficient. Realistically, however, the outcome of such a study is already known, and it does not bode well for any plausible plan being proposed. Very few museums have sufficient resources to cover their operating expenses without external sources of funding, chiefly in the form of grants or endowments. No museum can cover its expenses based on entrance fees or selling souvenirs. (Indeed, the irony is always that raising the price of admission generally reduces the number of people who visit the museum, often resulting in less rather than more income.) The Poe House and Museum is a very small building, with virtually no usable land around it, and very limited parking — all of which means that it is impractical for it to serve as a rental space for any larger purpose such as weddings or corporate meetings, both options that are often taken advantage of by museums that have such facilities. (Even if it did have such resources, these kinds of rentals rarely cover more than a fraction of the financial needs of the museums in question, and such activities necessarily restrict availability of the museum to be open to the public, to serve its actual purpose, and often entail additional expenses that reduce the overall value of such income.) As successful as the annual Poe Birthday Celebration has been, expenses have increased over the years, and it has hardly provided more than publicity for the museum. Even if one could think of some means to expand the public offerings, and a dozen such events could be held each year, the result would be well short of the money needed (and require a massive effort for planning, organizing and managing).

Why doesn’t the Poe Society just take over responsibility for running the museum?

The Poe Society turned over responsibility for the Poe House and Museum at the end of 1977 precisely because we did not have sufficient resources, in terms of staff or money, to provide what the museum needed. As a small literary society, our resources have actually diminished in the last 30+ years. The annual budget of the Poe Society is considerably less than $5,000, and we have been forced to cut back even on many of our regular activities due to reduced income and increasing costs. Clearly, the Poe Society is in no position to take on such a responsibility.

What can be done?

Barring the miracle of someone with sufficiently deep pockets stepping forward to establish a large endowment fund, the only plausible course would seem to be to convince the City of Baltimore that closing the museum is short-sighted, a failure to its citizens, and such a small savings to the budget that it is not worth doing. In other words, we hope that the City of Baltimore can be convinced to change its mind and continue to maintain the house and provide the money necessary to keep it open to the public — and if there is a chance that it might change its mind, that must happen in the near future. The Poe House and Museum is one of only three tourist destinations west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and one of the rare reasons that anyone living outside of this area would have for visiting (or caring about) this part of town. This direct connection to one of American’s most important writers has been an enduring symbol of the value of the arts to our overall society, and a reminder of Baltimore’s significant contributions to history. Poe never made much money, but he has achieved an enduring legacy, and won a place in the hearts of thousands of readers. Each year, visitors from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to this modest brick row-house. It has been a laudable tribute to the author of some of the most effective and memorable poetry and short stories ever composed, a source of pride for the community, and an inspiration for school children. Closing the Poe House and Museum would likely be an irreversible tragedy.

To contact the Mayor’s office by e-mail, a message may be sent from the following URL:

http://www.baltimorecity.gov/OfficeoftheMayor/ContactTheMayor.aspx

To contact the Mayor’s office by phone, the number is:

Phone: (410) 396-3835
fax: (410) 576-9425

To contact the Mayor’s office by mail, the address is:

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor
City Hall, Room 250
100 N. Holliday Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

If you choose to write to, or call, the Mayor’s office, please be as respectful of the Mayor and the role the city has played for the last several decades as you are passionate about defending the Poe House and Museum.

In addition, an online petition is also being created, although individual messages are more likely to register attention:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-the-poe-house-and-museum-in-baltimore/


Donations to Support the Baltimore Poe House and Museum

A special account has been established to accept donations. Although the account is maintained by the city of Baltimore, which has defunded the museum, the account is expressely dedicated to supporting the museum, and may be used for no other purpose.

A check or money order should be made out to the Director of Finance, annotated with a note of “Poe House Donation” and sent to:

Jeff Jerome
Department of Planning
8th Floor
417 East Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Electronic or other methods of donation are not being supported at this time, and probably will not be supportable going forward due to associated costs and other complications.


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[S:1 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Special Announcement