DEVENS — The House and Senate Conference Committee has spoken, and it’s approved a $50,000 appropriation to support establishing the Fort Devens Museum, said state Rep. James Eldridge, D-Acton.
The funding was approved by the House in May, but subsequently removed from the Senate budget. It was re-inserted this week via the Conference Committee, where it found support from local delegates and party leadership, said Eldridge.
“The House Ways and Means chairman recognized it’s important that there’s a place at Devens to remember all the soldiers who fought to protect our freedoms,” he said.
State Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton, and Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton, also actively advocated for the funding, said Eldridge.
The funds will advance several elements of the museums’ strategic plan, such as an oral history program and increased public outreach, said museum Director Ian Meisner.
“It’s a significant step for us,” he said. “This will give us the resources to do some things we haven’t been able to do in the past, and I’m optimistic about that.”
Another goal is to develop the first comprehensive, searchable database of personnel who came through Devens during the base’s 79-year history. It’s a goal that underscore’s the museum’s larger goal, said Meisner.
“We’re here to preserve the legacy of Devens and educate future generations about that legacy,” he said. “The museum is tremendously appreciative of the support of the delegation. We will work to be not only good custodians of the money, but also to create something of value for the community at large.”
The Fort Devens Museum currently resides in a suite at 94 Jackson Rd., but has plans to renovate the old Red Cross building at the junction of Barnum and Jackson roads.
A dollar figure hasn’t been attached to the museum project, but Meisner estimated the “significant” costs will include extensive renovations to the building and endowments to cover operating costs.
A capital campaign to cover those costs is expected to be launched at some point this summer.
Eldridge is optimistic they’ll meet that goal.
“Whatever happens to Devens, there will always be a museum to remember the tradition of military service that took place in the past and continues to take place.”
While he’s happy with the news, Meisner said the funding isn’t final until the governor signs the budget. Until then, it’s still subject to line-item veto, he said.
“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.