When Dorothy McKee first became involved with the Sherman Museum in 1977, things around the nonprofit were different from today.

When Dorothy McKee first became involved with the Sherman Museum in 1977, things around the nonprofit were different from today.


"We had cases; we had artifacts — we tried to make them relevant enough that people would come in, but we had very low attendance and participation," McKee recalled. "Now, we have people coming to the museum, which we did not have for so many years."


McKee and other Sherman Museum board members said the watershed occurred in 2011 when Museum Director Dan Steelman was brought on board to turn the storied institution around. Steelman has been successful in introducing a rotating exhibit structure, which has doubled attendance and helped to bring in more people from out of town, said the board.


"The museum serves the city well in promoting tourism and also serving as an anchor as we develop a plan for an arts district," Board Member George Rowland said. "We’re more than just a Sherman Museum; we serve a much larger audience than that."


Funding for the institution is always a concern, however, Rowland said. In addition to admission income, the city of Sherman has typically devoted a portion of its hotel tax to help the Museum make ends meet. But that source of money has proved to be unstable, city leaders said.


"What we have proposed is that as we go along in time, we replace the hotel/motel tax funding — which has been dwindling and which has been divided in many ways, because we have many more requests to use those funds for events in Sherman — with a more sustainable source," Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker said. "But the city is absolutely in favor of supporting the Museum."


As part of the budgeting process for the 2016 fiscal year, initial plans called for an additional $20,000 to be cut from the Museum’s budget. A plea by board members during the last meeting of the Sherman City Council, however, was met with sympathy from Councilors, and the cut was restored — for now, at least.


Long term, though, Sherman still must find alternate ways to ensure the Museum is successful, according to the mayor.


"(The goal is) to transfer some collections or some services to the Museum that would be revenue generating and that would hopefully stabilize (the Museum’s) funding in future years," Wacker said. "So this is not about cutting the museum, closing the doors, or anything like that. This is about looking at new ways in 2015 … to help bring a sustainable source of revenue … so that many more generations and Shermanites and visitors can come there."


That, too, is the goal of the Museum’s board members, said Dorothy McKee.


"We’ve tried to build a museum that no one else in North Texas has," McKee told the Council. "In order to understand where we are today — in the city, in the state, in the world — we’ve got to know our history."