Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebookYouTube

Image Map
Categories Menu

Posted on Nov 10, 2011 in History News

Of Ernie Pyle and the Question of Big Museums vs. Small Ones

By Armchair General

A story in today’s New York Times about the Ernie Pyle Museum in his Indiana hometown raises broader questions about the ability of smaller museums to survive in the current economic conditions and about the best place is to display artifacts: a museum where more visitors will see them or at a place directly connected with the subject the artifacts represent?

Read "Ernie Pyle Museum is Struggling," by Dan Barry, and give us your opinions on the questions above.

 

9 Comments

  1. As a former executive director of ‘a small museum in an out of the way location,’ this sad news about the Ernie Pyle Museum really hit home. It emphasizes that the only way for these types of museums to survive is, unfortunately, through the influx of money from state governments or from generous private donors. And both of these revenue sources bring often heavy-handed ‘outside control’ of the small museum — either the state which must balance its budget or the private donors who often have their own ‘agendas’ for donating. This typically puts the small museum leadership in an impossible ‘no win’ situation. Although it is highly desirable for such museums to be at a site connected to the museum subject, attendance figures are inevitably going to depend on the principle embodied in the old real estate slogan: “location, location, location.”

  2. I’m a Director at the Ernie Pyle Museum in question. The trouble with visitor ship began well before the State of Indiana began having financial difficulties. Leadership at the Indiana DNR were social historians, lacking an appreciation and understanding of the importance of Ernie Pyle or of military history. One of the DNR personnel directly responsible for the pull back of personnel and reduction of hours at the Ernie Pyle museum was a historian specializing in Amish Quilts! The reduction of personnel, caused a reduction of open hours, which reduced visitorship. The disposal of the Ernie Pyle Museum was the result of a self inflicted wounds caused by the State of Indiana DNR shooting itself in the foot (unfortunately purposefully).

    Still, the Friends of Ernie Pyle are hopeful for the results of a yet to be launched national fund drive. This is what created the museum to begin with. One must remember that the Ernie Pyle Museum was not created by the State of Indiana. The Ernie Pyle Museum was created by the Friends of Ernie Pyle working hard with Scripps Howard, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Eli Lilly Foundation, none of whom attached any strings to how the museum was created, but did so truly from the goodness of their hearts, such was the legacy and love felt for Ernie Pyle and his memory by everyone involved. We believe this dedication will see the museum through to the creation of an endowment that will fund the museum in perpetuity.

    The first steps are being taken toward creating the foundations that will support our fund drive. We’ve set up a Paypal means for donation. Our website is being built, but you can access the Paypal donation button via my own website (www.oldsoldiersmagazine.com).

    We gladly accept any help offered, financially or otherwise (artifacts), books (we want to recreate the museum’s library which was also decimated by the State of Indiana DNR).

    You can use the website I just mentioned to make Paypal donations. Material donations and/or checks or money orders can be mailed to:

    Ernie Pyle Museum
    P.O. Box 345
    Dana, IN 47847

    This museum can and must be saved. The Ernie Pyle Museum is truly a national treasure. We of the Friends of Ernie Pyle are dedicated and truly believe we will be successful in saving this museum. It will mean hard work, a little luck, and the help of a great number more people than just the 13 board members, but we believe in what we are doing and our ultimate success.

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Board Member)

    • My wife and I visited the museum this past summer. I did not know it was closed the day we arrived, however I went to the local farm supply office and they called a lady who opened the museum just for us. I’m sorry I do not recall her name. Thank goodness for small towns! I have been a life long fan of Ernie Pyles books ever since my grandmother gave me a copy of “Brave Men.” She knew the Tennessee twins mentioned in the Sicily chapter. I do not approve of the state removing artifacts and funding, however we all know what gets cut first. Praying for a successful fund drive and keep fighting the good fight.

  3. You happened into the right place. The lady who made the call for you at the Grain Office was Kerry Newcomb, also a member of our Board of Directors and our Treasurer. She likely called one of two people, depending upon who was working at the time at other jobs. Joanie Rumple, also a board member, would have been the first person she called, and if Joanie was not available Kerry would have called Janice Duncan. Janice is short and walks with a bit of a limp due to an automobile accident. Joanie is a tallish thin lady and full of energy.

    One of the nice things about being a private museum, now that the state is gone, is that we open the museum regardless of the hour or day (well, maybe not at midnight). If the museum was still run by the State of Indiana you would have been out of luck. Rules were rules under their regime. They wouldn’t have opened for anyone outside of normal hours.

    However, now that we own and run the museum, we turn no one away. All anyone ever has to do is go to the grain office or call the phone number on the door of the museum (765-665-3633) and someone will find a guide or board member to let you in. We even schedule tours during the winter for anyone who wishes to call in and say, “we’re coming through with a bus load of people and wanted to stop”. That actually happens more often than you would think. Then we draft a few board members or volunteers and we meet the bus (our hair might be mussed a bit and we might be wearing a pair of beat up jeans, but we’ll be there, rain or shine).

    The very dedication of the members and volunteers as well as the intimacy of personal tours is very much different than when the museum was run by the state. On the board we are a bunch of home town folk. Veterans come to the site and many of them we find have never told their families any of the stories of their service. But, being that they are surrounded by memories, encouraged by Ernie’s words, they open up. They talk to us, and to their families. They tell stories they’ve remembered for 70 years but never told anyone until they come to the museum. There, often with tears in their eyes, they speak of the men they served with who died, they tell of things that horrified them, and they tell stories of mirth that would top even Pvt. Hargrove or Sad Sack. Sometimes, not always, they leave with a smile and a lightened step for finally getting weights off their minds. You won’t find that kind of behavior at the starchy museum in Indianapolis. In fact people who go through the State Museum in Indy, we are told, don’t even miss a step as they pass right by the small space dedicated to Ernie Pyle there. There may be 200,000 people who pass through that place, but you’d be hard pressed to find a dozen people who remembered anything about Ernie Pyle that they’d learned at the State Museum. The experience at the Ernie Pyle Museum in Dana is just that much more intense, more rich, and far more rewarding. These are not my words, but they are the words of the many guests that have passed through the museum.

    So, even if we are closed for the Winter Season, all anyone has to do is drive to the grain office and we will find a tour guide to take you through. Kerry even has my number if she can’t find one of the regular ladies to guide a tour, and I’m passably good at it too. Though I have to admit that being a military historian, I’m not nearly as good of a guide through Ernie’s actual boyhood home. That’s more of a social historian kind of thing about how people lived between 1900 and 1945 in rural America. Not my strong suit.

    I’m glad you visited. And I’m happy you were able to get a tour even when we were closed. We don’t turn anyone away and always find time for our guests. You won’t find that at a State run museum!

    Thank You for Visiting and Please Come Again!

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Director)
    http://www.erniepyle.net

    Old Soldiers Magazine (editor)
    http://www.oldsoldiersmagazine.com

    White Dog Games (graphic designer)
    http://www.whitedoggames.com

  4. A question posed on another military forum, combined with today being my 50th birthday, triggered a concept I hadn’t considered before. What happens to my library when I die? I’m 50, it’s not that far away afterall. I’ve no children, and my nieces I know will either throw my books in the trash or sell them at auction for a dollar a box of books. It seems to me that the wisest course of action for me is to bequeath my book collection to the Ernie Pyle Museum.

    What will your family do with your military history book collections?

    We would sure be happy to host your libraries at the Ernie Pyle Museum. You can be certain your books will not end up in a dumpster here. The more I think about this, the more this looks like a good idea.

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Director)
    http://www.erniepyle.net

    Old Soldiers Magazine (editor)
    http://www.oldsoldiersmagazine.com

    White Dog Games (graphic designer)
    http://www.whitedoggames.com

  5. We have received many unsolicited donations from the New York Times article (link listed above). The article’s author also dropped us a nice note as well as hard copies of the New York Times in which the article ran for the museum’s archives. Mr. Barry also expressed his thanks for the help of our board President (Cynthia Myers) and Vice-President (Phil Hess) who showed him around the museum during his visit here before writing his story, and for their help in answering questions. Mr. Barry was also gratified to know it was his help that pushed state bureaucrats to action finally signing the deeds that transferred the museum to the Friends of Ernie Pyle.

    The Article in the New York times has also been instrumental in that it has generated more interest from reporters who have an interest not only in the subject of Ernie Pyle, being a war correspondent, but also who are intrigued by the “David Beats Goliath” story of how a band of hard working small town people were able to snag the Ernie Pyle Museum from the clutches of (pardon the mixed Metaphors) the Evil Empire. National Public Radio has tasked a reporter with writing another piece about the museum. We anxiously await the results of that article.

    Thank You All for your donations.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving,

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Director)
    http://www.erniepyle.net

    Old Soldiers Magazine (editor)
    http://www.oldsoldiersmagazine.com

    White Dog Games (graphic designer)
    http://www.whitedoggames.com

  6. I live in Valpo. I am middle aged, recently divorced with three kids ages 11, 9 and 7. My retirement is NOT secure as I just lost 1/2 my net worth more or less. I have three kids and I would like to help them pay for college. I may have two weddings to pay for.

    As far as I’m concerned I want not one iota of my tax dollars going to subsidize the Ernie Pyle museum. Not one dime.

    I respect the work Mr. Pyle did and I can appreciate the warm feelings that the town has for the museum and the memory of one of their sons. That still doesn’t change my mind about the museum receiving tax subsidies. And, by the way, I wouldn’t mind a few more cuts for all the other museums too. My retirement is not secure and I do not want to live the golden years as a ward of the federal and state governments.

  7. Well, fortunately for you, that burden was lifted from your shoulders 2 years ago when a private not for profit organization took over the museum and began paying the state’s bills for it. And as of the first week of November of this year, the State of Indiana no longer owns the museum. Remember, for the last 25 years the State of Indiana OWNED the museum and therefore YOUR tax dollars were not used to subsidise some private organization, in fact it was the other way around. A private organization, the Friends of Ernie Pyle, has always maintained private funds to subsidize the STATE OF INDIANA. So, you see, YOU THE CITIZEN weren’t subsidizing anything at all from the get go. You never have! The museum was for many years OWNED by the State of Indiana in total. And at that time, as a state owned property, the State of Indiana wasn’t subsidizing anyting at all, it was taking care of its OWN property, but being incapable of doing so alone the Friends of Ernie Pyle subsidized the STATE OF INDIANA !!! Now there’s a real twist for you. A not for profit actually subsidizing the government. So, you see, YOU THE CITIZEN NEVER paid the full support of the museum to begin with! And now you won’t have to worry about a single thin dime! It’s no longer your responsibility in any small way, and wasn’t even at the instant of your typing your missive. You’re two years out of date! And we the Friends of Ernie Pyle are no longer burdened with subsidizing the State of Indiana for you!

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Director)
    http://www.erniepyle.net

    Old Soldiers Magazine (editor)
    http://www.oldsoldiersmagazine.com

    White Dog Games (graphic designer)
    http://www.whitedoggames.com

  8. Howdy Gents,

    I’ve received 4 boxes of books from wargamers for our library recently. I wanted to thank all of them publicly. Every little bit helps.

    Now that the museum is legally in our hands, the state of Indiana signed it over to us back in November, we are looking forward to fundraising … about as much as one enjoys hammer toes. Still, it has to be done. The museum hasn’t had any maintenance carried out on the buildings in the last 10 years. This is one of the things in which the Indiana DNR was remiss in their duties. Roofs on both the birthplace home and the two military quonset huts are leaking and have been for some time. We have had the facilities hooked up to the city sewage system, something that the state didn’t do. It was supposed to have been done within 3 months of the notice from the town of Dana (received in June 11) so by Nov 11 they were already delinquent. But, we had that done last month on our dime. No sense talking to the Indiana DNR about the bill, they’ll just refuse to pay, after all they hadn’t done any maintenance to the site in the last 10 years.

    The birthplace home also needs a coat of paint. Walmart did donate paint for the fence around the house, and we had a Community Service …. um, is inmate the correct word? do the painting this spring.

    Our parade jeep is in dire condition. It needs the King Pins replaced as well as a complete rebuild of the front end suspension. The engine leaks oil and the cooling system has a broken petcock that needs replacing. The passenger seat cushion also needs some work because it comes loose (the screw holes are stripped). The low gear box simply doesn’t work so we don’t have 4 wheel drive and we don’t have the low granny gears (which helps driving it in a parade at very low speed – the speed at which a band walks in a parade). Presently you have to juggle the throttle, choke, gas pedal, and ride the brakes and clutch to keep the speed below 12mph without killing the engine (walking speed is about 6 mph).

    The museum’s Audio Visual System has two theaters and one automated TV documentary. They run an introductory documentary that visitors watch as they first enter the museum. The Waskow Theater runs the small documentary about Ernie’s most famous column (also voted the single most influential column in journalistic history by the Professional Journalists Assoc.). And finally the exit video is a tribute to Ernie Pyle by people like Gerald Ford, Andy Rooney (a friend and companion of Ernie’s), William Windom (not only a famous actor, but also a combat infantryman and member of the 101st Airborne who dropped on D-Day into St. Mere-Eglise). We’ve had estimates from several companies to repair/replace the system we have, which is over 15 years old. Those estimates exceed $15,000, one which replaces the entire system was $49,000.

    Our office equipment is circa 1980. Two of the three computers are Win95, and one is an XP (2003) with only 64 Gb of memory and no modem. Not that the lack of a connection to the internet is a real problem because we don’t HAVE a connection to the internet, nor could we afford one if we did.

    We are also hopeful of obtaining two empty lots adjacent to the museum, which will help us to expand the museum into the future. As things stand now, we have no space for expansion, yet we have lots of people wishing to make donations of WWII materials (documents, photos, equipment, things their deceased fathers and grandfathers had stored away in long forgotten boxes in their attics). We’d like to be able to display some of these, but don’t have any place for its exhibition. And, yes, this would require a new building on those lots. It’s a dream I know, but a serious one which we hope to execute within the next 5-10 years.

    So, there are a number of things we need worked on, and of course that means we need the money to do them, which we don’t have presently.

    We have a paypal donation button on our website that now works! Before the only way was to visit my own personal website where I had one set up in the interim for the purpose (that one still exists actually – redundancy isn’t a bad thing – one never knows when computers will break). Anyway, you can access the museum’s paypal Donation at erniepyle.org It does finally work! I’m so happy to say that at least something DOES work :)

    Thank You All for your donations.

    Tom Cundiff
    Ernie Pyle Museum (Director)
    erniepyle.org

    Old Soldiers Magazine (editor)
    oldsoldiersmagazine.com

    White Dog Games (graphic designer)
    whitedoggames.com

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>