BLACK HILLS, S.D. – What would normally be mid-season for museums in the Black Hills is only the beginning for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just in time for the Custer’s Gold Discovery Days, Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum is opening for the first time this season, on July 17. They chose to hold off on their open to protect their elderly group of volunteers – an at-risk population.
On the other hand, museums only just opening will have to make up for the lost revenue from May through June.
“It would probably be the May, June, and now July, those months the early part of the tourism year is worth probably $15,000 to 20,000,” said Gary Enright, Director of the Courthouse Museum.
Other museums that chose to open sooner – like The South Dakota State Railroad Museum in Hill City–are just as concerned about the loss in cash. But the railroad museum was fortunate enough to receive several grant awards to keep them up and running the rest of the season.
“Basically what we’ve done in applying for these grants, and with the two we’ve received, allow us another four months of operations for our employees and our lease payments on a couple of things, as well as maintenance and operation,” said Rick Mills, Director of South Dakota State Railroad Museum.
Mills says patronage from the community and non-profits helps cover essential costs such as salaries for employees and daily upkeep.
The local Black Hills’ museums contain a vast collection of the state’s history and donations and admission fees help to preserve them.