Museum in Old Town Hall Edges Closer to Reality

Old Town Hall stands proudly across from Bedford Common ~ Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

The table is being set for an eventual town museum in Old Town Hall.

Last week the Bedford Historical Society submitted a response to the Town’s formal request for proposals to lease the third floor of the historic structure at 16 South Road “to serve as a town museum, display showcase, or art exhibit.”

And it was the only response to the request, said Facilities Director Taissir Akani, who will begin the review process.

According to the terms, there will be an evaluation committee responsible for making recommendations to the town manager. Plans must include a “price proposal,” as well as a detailed description of operations, an audited financial statement, and a “three-year business/organization plan.”

Evaluative criteria range from organizational experience and management team’s qualifications to the business/operation plan, financial capability, and proposed uses.

Thomas Kinzer, society president, said he filed the proposal after receiving the go-ahead from his board of directors. The deadline was last Friday.

Kinzer said that the plans will require approval by the Select Board, as specified in the request for proposals. Perhaps that will come in September when the three-year lease begins, he said.

After that, he stressed, the Society doesn’t want to be rushed into its initial exhibit. “We have to plan how we are going to use the space,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve made it perfectly clear we are not going to see how fast we can get something thrown together,”

“We haven’t explicitly begun work, but we will probably begin very shortly,” said Kinzer. “We want to do something good for the town and for our cause. Putting something up that’s not very good and asking people to come to see it, then having them feel bamboozled would not be a good thing.”

Studies several years ago resulted in the designation of Old Town Hall as the preferred museum site, focusing on the second floor. But that space has been used for many years by Bedford TV, and there have been no apparent alternatives for what is considered an essential operation serving the town.

It has been assumed that a year-long comprehensive municipal space-needs study, which begins this summer, would provide some clarity on options for the museum, the television operation, or both.

But if the Historical Society proposal is accepted, the concept of a museum in Old Town Hall will become a pilot program, with Bedford TV remaining on the second floor.

In recent years the society and the town have not been open to using the third floor for displays, since it is a popular and revenue-generating civic and social meeting space. Under the proposal, the Historical Society would manage requests for rentals, and benefit from the revenue stream.

The Historical Society emphasizes that this will be a town museum, and envisions paying only costs directly associated with a museum operation, mostly custodial. The Society will be charged rent, but according to the request for proposals, it will cover “utilities—water, sewer, electricity, heat, non-hazardous waste removal—and building maintenance excluding tenant space cleaning.”

Several weeks ago, the Historical Society’s collection and offices moved from the police station to the ground floor of Old Town Hall because of renovations at the station. The society intends to keep some of the ground floor open to the public.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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