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Ryan Duffy

September 1, 2020 - 10:36am

Genesee County legislators on Monday urged the Holland Land Office Museum executive director to explore ways to increase revenue – even suggesting Sunday hours – and trim expenses in light of possible funding cuts in 2021.

Speaking at a Human Services Committee meeting, Ryan Duffy (inset photo right) presented a review of HLOM operations over the past year, and was quick to state the obvious: 2020 has been “very difficult” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the West Main Street facility to close for three and a half months.

Still, he said there has been progress in some areas, notably by utilizing social media “quarantine” programs such as "Genesee County Jeopardy!" and history-themed activities related to food, movies and travel.

“Really, we’ve been trying to look at this pandemic as an opportunity,” he said, with an eye on maintaining and, in some cases, expanding its programming.

Upon reopening in early July, Duffy instituted an admissions fee, charging $5 for adults; $3 for seniors/students/veterans; $1 for children; and $10 for families of four. Museum members are admitted free of charge.

“We have seen a positive response in the two months," he said. "The fee structure is right in the ballpark."

Duffy mentioned other “positive” developments, including a video series about artifacts, installation of a new projector, screen and sound system in the East Wing for events and use by community groups, and restoration of the two cannons under the front canopy.

The cannons were restored by Seed Artillery of Altoona, Pa., and now are period accurate to the time of their forgings, pre-Civil War, Duffy reported.

“They came back and they look amazing … you won’t believe the difference,” he offered.

While efforts have been made to overcome a significant revenue loss (gift shop sales, major fundraiser and summer program cancellations, lack of group tours, etc.), things could get tougher next year if the county slashes its funding to outside agencies.

The county has committed to fully funding its 2020 commitment of $33,554, which represents about 40 percent of the HLOM’s budget, County Manager Matt Landers said.

“For 2021, outside agencies have been informed of potential cuts,” Landers said. “We will know more after our department heads submit their budgets by September 4th for me to review.”

Along these lines, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked Duffy what he could do to cut costs and increase funding.

Duffy said that some expenses were naturally eliminated due to being closed and that he could find across the board cuts in programming, exhibits and equipment, if necessary. He said staff is always looking for grants – noting they received one recently for $2,500 – and in May, the museum joined the Amazon Smile fundraising platform.

Stein then brought up that the Historic Le Roy House attracts 10,000 visitors annually, with the bulk of its visitorship on Saturdays and Sundays.

“So, I would offer that as a peer comparison,” she said. “Would you imagine that Sunday might be a good day for visitors from out of town?”

Currently, the HLOM is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Duffy said more than 1,000 people have visited the museum since September 2019.

Duffy, the only paid employee at the museum, responded by saying that’s “always a possibility” but the present schedule “is following the trends of the industry; most are closed on Sunday.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg spoke up in support of the museum, advising her colleagues that the HLOM received a Personal Payroll Protection loan from the federal government and conducted a fundraiser separate from its budget to restore the cannons.

As far as county funding is concerned, she said, “It seems like a small line item in our budget … but to them it is a large amount” and to reduce it would be “devastating.”

File photo of Ryan Duffy from Feb. 11, 2017.

February 11, 2017 - 5:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, batavia, history, Ryan Duffy, news.

ryanduffyhlom2017.jpg

Ryan Duffy decided in high school that he wanted to work in a history museum.

Now, he's running one.

Duffy is the new director of the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia and yesterday the museum held a reception to welcome him to his new job.

He started Jan. 17 and said he's already fascinated by what he's finding in the museum.

"I go upstairs every day to work on some things and I find something new that I find I’m amazed that it’s here, that you would expect to be some place much bigger than here," he said.

One reason Duffy is going through the collection is he's trying to plan future exhibits, which he said may focus on local history, or he may explore cooperative efforts with other museums for exhibits with ties to Genesee County, but not specifically Genesee County. He's currently working on a possible World War I exhibit and he's found some items he was surprised might be part of the local collection, such as a war department document. He said he's also impressed with the range of military uniforms the museum owns, representing all branches of service spanning the history of the country.

To help get more people to visit the museum, he's exploring the idea of trivia nights and more family-oriented events.

Duffy, originally from Eden, received his BA in history from St. Bonaventure University. He received a master's dpegree in history from Bowling Green University and a Master's Certificate in Museum Studies from SUNY Buffalo State College.

"I’ve become more and more interested in local history as I’ve gone along, so I thought, ‘I’m still in Western New York -- it’s still my history in that regard,’ " Duffy said, explaining why he applied for the job when he heard HLOM was looking for a new director. "I still feel a connection to it and I get to do what I actually want to do.”

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