It’s been three months since the Rockpile Museum began charging admission fees, but it’s hard to say how those fees have impacted visitation and revenues, according to Museum Director Robert Henning.
Museum visitation numbers are well up over the same time the previous year, Henning told County 17 Friday, Oct. 8, but they’re not quite back to pre-pandemic levels yet and it’s hard to say if the slump is due to the COVID-19 pandemic or if it is because of the new admission fees.
“The jury is still out on that one,” Henning said, though he acknowledged that is possible the admission fees could be serving as a deterrent for residents who aren’t really interested in what the museum has to offer.
Those could be people who may not have known about the museum beforehand and would come in, look around, and leave without really learning anything because they weren’t interested in Campbell County History to begin with, he explained.
“Sure, we lost the chance to impress these folks and to teach about local history,” Henning said. “But if they don’t have any interest in history, are we actually teaching them?”
For the current budgetary cycle, losing a few admission fees doesn’t have any impact on the Rockpile Museum which is operating on a reduced budget from the Campbell County Commission that was based on museum staff’s best estimate on how much they needed to operate and how much they could raise in admission fees.
Any dollar over that estimate goes directly back to the county’s General Fund, Henning said, which could positively influence the museum’s budget picture during the county’s next budget session at the end of the current fiscal year.
As things stand now, Henning continued, early admission numbers and revenues look good and appear to be on pace to match the estimate given to the county earlier this year. But that could change depending on the season, per Henning.
The museum is always summer-heavy in terms of visitation numbers, he said, but it’s hard to tell what the coming winter months will look like.
“Right now, it’s simply too early to tell,” Henning said.