August 14, 2014

Two Local Museums Facing Challenges

Lon C Hill home at Museum



Harlingen’s Art & Heritage Museum and the Iwo Jima Memorial Museum & Gift Shop welcome thousands of visitors each year.  Both opt to offer free admission to their guests, and both are asking for your help.

During a recent visit with Gloria Boling director of the Iwo Jima Memorial Museum & Gift Shop at Marine Military Academy the subject about expanding the museum came up. Boling said they have two rooms full of WWII memorabilia donated by  veterans who served during this war, the Iwo Jima battle as well as in other conflicts. They are eager to share this valuable information with visitors, but funding has been slow in coming.

Iwo Jima Memorial in Harlingen

Iwo Jima Memorial in Harlingen

Trip Advisor ranks the Iwo Jima Memorial as Harlingen’s number one attraction with most reviews rating the museum as excellent and worth the trip. The number three destination is located right next door to the Iwo Jima Memorial and it is the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum. Reviews call it a “Nice regional museum” and a “Great little gem.”

The source of funding for the Iwo Jima Memorial comes strictly from personal donations and support from patrons of Marine Military Academy. HA&HM is owned by the City of Harlingen, but has an incredible core of volunteers and board members of the non-profit Rio Grande Valley Museum Association who raise funds annually to help maintain the historically significant buildings found on the museum grounds like the Victorian home of Harlingen’s founder Lon C. Hill pictured above.

Tourism guru Dr. Peter Tarlow recently posted an article on museums on this site where he touches on the challenges museums face at a time when government funding is rapidly coming to an end.

“That means that museums are going to have to become business savvy not only in how they market themselves but also in what they market. Museums will also have to observe trends. For example art museums have proven to be increasingly popular tourism destinations while history (and especially local historical) museums have proven to be, with a few exceptions such as the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, ever less popular.” Dr.Peter Tarlow.

When it comes to Harlingen’s two museums the Iwo Jima Memorial spans far beyond local history, for it even sits on the grounds of what once was an Air Force base. The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum does showcase local history, but it also serves as an outlet for the arts and appeals to the heart and emotions with its exhibits.

Both properties have plans for expansion; the Iwo Jima Memorial will expand to accommodate all the valuable artifacts they possess, and the HA&HM already has a design to renovate the permanent exhibit hall which will come at a cost of half a million dollars.  To this day, between the City of Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley Museum Association, 100 thousand dollars have been allocated to provide for the first stage of the remodeling process.

Museums Become the Tourism Industry’s New Star is the title of Tarlow’s post, and we highly recommend everyone interested in supporting the Valley’s museums to read this article. We think everybody should be interested in supporting them, for they will be there to tell our story to future generations. Plan to attend the annual Taste of Harlingen, or become a member. Your support is needed.

Follow the links on this story to find out more about these two museums.

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About the Author

La Vida Valle
La Vida Valle was created in June, 2011 as a platform for all things related to the arts, the people and the culture of the Rio Grande Valley.


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