April 27, 1996 in City

Some Fear Air Force Will Ground Museum But Officials Insist Fairchild Heritage Museum Is Not Closing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Fairchild Heritage Museum may soon stop being a museum under a proposal the Air Force is calling a “change of status” for the base’s historic treasure trove.

Supporters fear the change to what the Air Force calls a “historic holding facility,” would lessen the museum’s significance and eventually lead to its closure.

“This little museum…is very much in danger of going away,” said Arne Weinman, a member of the museum foundation board and a former wing commander at Fairchild.

Officials at Fairchild and the Air Mobility Command - which controls the base - deny that closure is in the works.

“There is no proposal to close the museum,” said Tom Cossaboom, command historian for the AMC at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

But the frame building and its attached structures will become a holding facility, he said. That means it could have up to 500 exhibits on permanent display - down from the more than 5,000 items it has now.

“It’s happening at a number of bases,” Cossaboom said. “We don’t have the resources to maintain all of our museums.”

The Fairchild museum does not have a curator or a director, which Air Force regulations require. Those positions were eliminated several years ago when the base cut back its civilian work force.

Weinman and foundation member Fred Brown, who has spent several years cataloging exhibits in the museum’s storage, said limiting the facility to 500 exhibits is a major reduction. Fairchild’s museum has items that range from a training simulator for B-52 pilots that is contained in two rail cars to a collection of uniforms that date to the Spanish-American War.

Brown and Weinman say the museum, even though it is on the base, is a community resource. Many exhibits would be sent to other Air Force museums, because a holding facility cannot store items, Cossaboom said.

The foundation and base officials had plans to place a nearly intact cockpit of a B-52 at the museum as a new exhibit. The base just happens to have such an item because it recently had to cut apart a bomber that was on display in front of the officers and enlisted club.

The change in status could ruin those plans, because holding facilities also aren’t allowed to add new exhibits without special permission.

Staff Sgt. Sue Conard, a Fairchild spokeswoman, said there is no decision yet on the fate of the cockpit.

Brown and Weinman hope to find more volunteers to make improvements to the museum. They also hope the foundation can raise the money to hire a curator and director, then have them donate their time to keep the museum running.

Neither Cossaboom nor Conard were sure if that’s possible.

Federal law would not allow the foundation to raise money and give it to the base to pay museum staff Cossaboom said.

“It would take a lot of research whether that can be done or not,” Conard said. “We have very strict guidelines on what we can accept.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TO VISIT THE MUSEUM The Fairchild Heritage Museum is open to the public free of charge. Visitors can take a Spokane Transit Authority bus onto the base or receive a gate pass at the entrance facility off Highway 2.

This sidebar appeared with the story: TO VISIT THE MUSEUM The Fairchild Heritage Museum is open to the public free of charge. Visitors can take a Spokane Transit Authority bus onto the base or receive a gate pass at the entrance facility off Highway 2.

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