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January 30, 2013
MONMOUTH -- It looks like the Jensen Arctic Museum will eventually be moved to Eugene.
Western Oregon University President Mark Weiss said last week that efforts were under way to transfer the museum's 5,000-piece collection to the University of Oregon, which is "committed to sustaining it with the necessary resources."
The facility that houses the museum and many of its artifacts are owned by Western, Weiss said. WOU has pulled financial support from the museum during the last two years as a cost saving effort.
"WOU is no longer in a position to use student tuition to fund the collection and philanthropic efforts are not sustaining operations," Weiss said.
Museum officials have explored since 2010 ways to raise revenue and whether the collection might get more exposure by moving it outside of Monmouth.
An agreement was reached with the Albany Revitalization Agency (ARA) in 2012 to move part of the exhibit into a building in that city's downtown. Lack of museum revenue from its own fundraising efforts and the size of the new home halted the deal.
"We were originally looking at a 5,300-square-foot building to convert into a museum," Jensen curator Roben Jack said. "When that option became unreasonable, the board looked at smaller locations."
ARA revoked a $50,000 grant allocated for the satellite museum project in December. Besides funding, Jensen Museum leadership has also taken a hit -- an eight-member board had dwindled to three by late 2012.
The UO proposal transpired after a visit by a museum consultant in the fall with the Friends of the Jensen Arctic Museum, Weiss said.
"I believe all are in agreement that transfer of the collection to UO is in the best interest of preserving, maintaining and displaying the artifacts," Weiss said.
UO has its own Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
There's enough funding to continue operating the Jensen Arctic Museum at the corner of Church Street and Stadium Drive through the spring, Jack said, adding "We do not know what will happen after that."
The Jensen Arctic Museum, established in 1985, is the only museum devoted solely to Arctic culture on the West Coast.
Jack said the museum board would support WOU's decision "in caring for the collection in whatever way they determine is best."
As for the impact to Monmouth, Jack said: "Anytime a cultural attraction is lost in a community, it is a loss.
"Whether or not it is detrimental cannot be measured until after the fact; the museum has 4,000 guests per year, who generally are not affiliated with WOU."