Letter – Don’t cut funds for museum

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

It has come to our attention that the value to the community of the Isle of Wight County Museum has been called into question by a member of the Smithfield Town Council (“Smithfield eyes further tax rate cut,” June 14). Costs are certainly important considerations for the county’s administration, but this is a particularly unsettling sentiment.

Museums — especially this county’s — are not just simple repositories of the area’s historic artifacts. They are living reminders of its heritage: why it exists in the first place, and the events and individuals who have brought the town to its current position. In Isle of Wight’s case, it is a particularly long and honorable heritage that should not be forgotten.  

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Over the centuries, the residents have taken great risks to advance this area. Many died in the effort. They should not be forgotten, and that is what this museum has been particularly effective in accomplishing.  

The number and variety of programs and activities that originate at that museum is awe-inspiring: walking tours by staff, lectures by recognized authorities, some very cute — and informative — children’s events, tours, publications, online resources. We have attended two lectures in the past month, and both times more chairs had to be brought in. There is something for everyone, if only they will avail themselves of these frequent and well-publicized opportunities to learn about the many noteworthy events that took place in the county. And, of course, there is the world-famous ham. 

We are not from Isle of Wight; we reside in Gloucester. Not infrequently, we make the trip to Isle of Wight specifically to attend museum events that we have learned about online. While there, you may be assured that we spend money on meals and gifts at the many downtown stores. We don’t do that in Norfolk. Or Williamsburg. Or Newport News/Hampton. Just in Isle of Wight County — and just because of the museum, which has that kind of reputation.  

It would be a tragedy to see that reputation damaged by ill-guided budget cuts.


Roy and Eirlys Barker