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 Post subject: Eckley Miners' Village
PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:04 pm 
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Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Despite cuts, historic Eckley Miners' Village won't face changes
By Bill Wellock (Staff Writer)
Published: August 9, 2010


Despite cuts to the state organization that administers it, Eckley Miners' Village will not face any changes in operation or loss of funding, a state official says.

Pennsylvania's 2010-2011 budget allocates $18,416,000 for the PHMC - $3,137,000 less than last year's budget. Despite the changes, Howard Polman, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marketing director, says operations at Eckley will likely continue unchanged. That means the museum will remain open with the same hours as it had last year.

According to Polman, the money that funds Eckley will come from the more-than-$18 million "General Government Operations" line item appropriated to the PHMC, which owns Eckley and allocates funding for the village.

Though that money is lower in the 2010-2011 budget than last year's, the museum will not receive less money from the PHMC.

"We got cuts in this year's budget but we're not anticipating major changes in Eckley," he said "We're a large organization, so cuts can be taken at other places, not just at sites."

Polman said if the state reopens the budget - a possibility if Pennsylvania doesn't receive $850 million from the federal government that was expected when the budget was enacted - changes could be possible.

Last year, after a scare about closing Eckley, at least temporarily, the living museum ended up keeping the same schedule, but with fewer staff members to help run the village.

Without as many employees, volunteers have had to help bridge the gap, according to Dave Dubeck, Eckley director.

State rules determine some of the work volunteers can do at the site.

For example, they can't drive state vehicles off the Eckley Miners' Village site. If a car needs gas, a volunteer can't drive to a gas station to fill it up.

Among the staff members furloughed earlier in the year was a staffer in charge of researching and doing projects. He would plan special events like Living History Weekend, The Summer of '44 and Patch Town Days; research projects for months in advance, and contact re-enactors, all with a professional expertise, Dubeck said.

Now, it's all hands on deck, with several people working to organize those events.

Another project with which volunteers can't help is refurbishing and stabilizing the structures on the property by replacing windows, doors, roofs, siding and foundations. Over the last two years, Eckley used money from the PHMC to work on 12 buildings, and plans to work on at least 12 more.

Dubeck said about 60 volunteers are signed up to help out at the site, but he needs as many volunteers as he can get. He's beginning a recruiting drive at area schools.

Helping him at the site is long-term volunteer Chris Deemer. Deemer got connected with Eckley through AmeriCorps VISTA, a nationwide volunteer program. Until next July, he'll be living in a former laborer's house while he helps make up the work of a furloughed employee, planning special events, calling vendors and re-enactors, and organizing paperwork.

Deemer said his experience at Eckley is a chance to "do the reckless thing responsibly," in the words of one of his friends. He said he has seen firsthand the effects of previous furloughs.

"In the past, people could just stop by and there would be somebody to give them a tour. Now, there's not always somebody," he said. "We try to schedule at least one tour a day, but sometimes its hard when we're preparing for programs, and staff are busy with those. We have volunteers who come in to give tours for us and usually at least one staff member who gives tours a couple of times a week."

With a guide, unexpected visitors who can't be accommodated are welcome to walk around the village, but they can't go inside the buildings.

bwellock@standardspeaker.com 570-455-3636

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