By Jennifer Lane
There has been much speculation as to what will be the fate of the American Fluorite Museum in Rosiclare, recently, as word has spread that Eric and Sherry Livingston plan to resign from the museum Board. Twenty three years ago, Eric and Sherry Livingston began a mining and specimen display and along with a Board, opened the American Fluorite Museum. The Livingstons along with other people from the community have loaned or donated items to the museum.
The Livingstons have invested a lot of time, work and money into the museum over the years, but are now ready to finish that chapter. “We’ve been at this for 23 years and we just don’t have the enthusiasm or disposable cash to continue with it,” said Sherry. “Currently, we have only three volunteers and there are many things in need of repair at the museum.” Sherry went on to say that the museum only received about 300 visitors last year, much less than years before. The museum is struggling financially.
An American Fluorite Museum Board meeting was held Tuesday night. About a dozen concerned citizens showed up to the meeting and at first were not received well by Livingston. She felt that things had been stirred up and the Board needed to meet privately before everyone came in. The citizens stayed outside the building for about 10 minutes until they were invited in to the meeting.
Some citizens who entered the meeting spoke with concern, expressing that they didn’t want the museum to be closed or sold. Others questioned who would have the authority over specimens donated and wondered if legal advice been acquired if there was to be a sale made. It was also noted that some felt the community would be more inclined to help if the need would be announced.
Many rumors have been shared via social media concerning the destiny of specimens and items on display in the museum. All of this took place when the Livingstons suddenly announced that they were ready to close up shop at the last Board meeting. Many have feared that pieces would be taken that don’t need to be removed.
Word had also spread that the Livingtons planned to sell the contents of the museum to a museum in Branson, MO. The Livingstons said that is not the case. Livingston said that there had been “what if?” conversations about that in the past knowing that the museum was not financially stable, but steps were never taken in that direction.
According to the Livingstons, when they resign, they plan to take only their personal property. The rest of the items on loan or items that have been donated to the museum will be the responsibility of the new museum Board. Even though the Livingstons’ loaned items make up a huge part of the collection, the museum will continue to have collections such as those shared by people like John Schutt, Bob Hardin, Herpel Davis, and others as the new Board continues.
According to board member Don Hastie, the Board has gained and lost members over the years and there have not been regular meetings or consistency. Some members had voiced concerns that they were unsure of any clear documentation of individuals who have donated or loaned items, and on what terms. At the meeting, President Eric Livingston shared documentation about certain donated/loaned specimens to the Board.
Some citizens asked about the ownership of the building and property. According to Hastie, the museum building was deeded from Ozark-Mahoning Company to the Board as long as the building is used as a museum. It is not for sale.
After much discussion, the Board agreed to reopen the museum beginning May 11th. It will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 1-4 p.m. The Livingstons agreed to remain on the Board and not remove any of their personal items from the museum until after the Fluorspar Miners’ Memorial unveiling and dedication ceremony, that is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 17, 2017.
After that point, a new Board will be appointed. The Livingstons also invited the Board to be present when they remove their personal items from the museum. “The last thing we want is for someone to think we would take something,” Sherry added.
In order for the American Fluorite Museum to remain open, it will require help from the community. Donations, repairs, and volunteers are greatly needed. Volunteers have an easy job. They open the building and receive visitors.
The Livingstons are hopeful that the museum will continue on, finding an individual or group of individuals with the enthusiasm they once had.
Hastie acknowledged the work and money that the Livingstons have put into the museum. He is optimistic that the museum will continue. Hastie encourages citizens of the community to get involved, attend meetings, and volunteer for the museum. He also invites the public to donate or loan more specimens or items to continue to improve the museum.
If individuals are interested in finding out about specific specimens or items donated or on loan at the museum, questions should be directed to the American Fluorite Museum Board members. Currently the Board members are as follows: Eric Livingston, President; Sherry Livingston, Secretary; Roy Jackson, Treasurer; Gwynn Johnson; Harold Davis; and Don Hastie.
A public meeting will be held May 16 at 6:00 p.m. for those interested in keeping the museum open. The Board encourages anyone interested to please attend.
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