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Pandemic Forces Closure Of Already Struggling Hanford Carnegie Museum

Laura Tsutsui
Valley Public Radio
The Hanford Carnegie Museum is no longer in the city's historic Carnegie building. The nonprofit running the museum couldn't keep up with repairs and the cost of insuring the century-old structure.

A museum housed in a former Carnegie Library has closed its doors because it can no longer keep up with the terms of its lease. 

The Hanford Carnegie Museum Nonprofit leased the Carnegie building from the city of Hanford for 45 years. The nonprofit was required to maintain and insure the building, but that’s been costly to do for a century-old structure.

“I know we were on a cliff, but I feel that we got pushed over by the pandemic,” says Silvia Gonazlez Scherer, vice president of the museum’s board. “We were unable to do fundraisers or our usual activities that brought income in.” She says they had to cancel and refund deposits to people who had planned to rent the building’s courtyard before the pandemic struck.

The museum faced potential eviction last year when the city gave the nonprofit ten days to make repairs and structural assessments totalling thousands of dollars. The city ultimately allowed the nonprofit to stay and make improvements.

The coronavirus pandemic has since made fundraising for those efforts impossible.

Gonzalez Scherer says one saving grace is an anonymous volunteer who offered to house the inventory of photos and relics from the early 20th century for the time being.

“The last thing I packed was the goggles of Amelia Earhart,” says Gonzalez Scherer. “I can’t even express how I felt about that adequately without writing a poem,” she says laughing.

The goggles are an exhibit item, she says, because Earhart taught one Hanford woman how to fly. Gonzalez Scherer hopes the museum’s collections can be displayed again within the next year, but the nonprofit will likely lose the Carnegie affiliation, since it will no longer be housed in the old library. She gave the keys back to the city on Monday. 

Hanford Vice Mayor Francisco Ramirez says he hopes the city will lease the building to another nonprofit in the near future. He didn’t name an organization, but said he thinks a new tenant could be found within six months. 

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places as one of many libraries funded by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie. 

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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