The Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, had fallen on hard times since the legendary hurler passed away in 2010. Membership numbers dwindled and interest declined, leaving the museum in a precarious position in respect to its survival. Feller used to come to town for autograph signings, and his presence would attract other Hall of Famers to the small museum. With no visits from Feller, other special guests stopped coming as well. The Museum finally shut its doors, and the building will be taken over in 2015 by the Van Meter City Hall. Half of the building will be offices, and the other half will remain dedicated to Feller in some way. Supposedly, many of the memorabilia items will be coming to Cleveland for a special exhibit held by the Indians next season.
While this is obviously a unique situation – a home-town museum dedicated to a star that passed away – small museums and historical societies often face an uphill battle when it comes to their survival. A lot of historical institutions are forced to try and do more with fewer resources; that’s why you see many places that used to be open 5 or 6 days per week opting instead for 3 or 4 days per week. Sometimes there’s no sure way to know why a museum that was previously successful hit hard times…but in this case, they know exactly what happened. While the Bob Feller Museum had to contend with dwindling donations and funding, as well as attendance issues (like many museums and historical institutions) unfortunately they also had to contend with the death of its namesake and focus. There’s a part of me that wishes someone could have helped the museum, or bailed them out. However, the sad fact remains that it was probably not sustainable without Feller’s presence.
The one bright spot in all of this is that at least Feller won’t be forgotten. The city of Van Meter will still honor him at the building’s location, and many of his personal items will be in Cleveland for fans to enjoy. A lot of times when museums close, the items inside are auctioned off to the highest bidder, with much of it entering the homes of private collectors. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s hard for the general public to continue to enjoy the items when they’re no longer accessible. At least in this scenario, Bob Feller will continue to be honored.