Consultant begins work on studies for prisons museum
Members of the Lansing Regional Prisons Museum Committee agree that economic development is the key factor behind the push for the museum.
Committee members met Tuesday, Nov. 1, at The Overlook restaurant with members of Project Explore, their newly hired consultant that will develop a feasibility study and strategic plan to guide them in their decisions.
Project Explore will be paid $38,000 for its work, said Shanae Randolph, the city's director of economic development/Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We basically are trying to provide the context so the Regional Prisons Museum will be successful," explained Chris Becicka of Project Explore, "and to make sure you have all the information that you absolutely need in order for you need to go forward."
To get started, Becicka asked committee members, "What would you say is the chief purpose in creating a museum? Is there a No. 1, hands-down objective that you'd all agree on?"
Though committee members talked about several factors, including education and paying homage to the corrections industry and its effect on the area, they agreed economic development was the key.
"I'll tell you what I think: economic development," said Robert Ulin, a Lansing City Council member who sits on the committee. "You draw people into the area. They stay here and they spend money here. It's a destination."
"What we've heard you say is that the economic development is the lens through which you are going to look at whatever your suggestions might be or whatever your picture of this prisons museum is going to be," Becicka said.
That being the case, she said, "The question then becomes how do we build the best prison museum to attract people."
To that end, committee members settled on a museum that looks at area prisons' historical past, their present and the future of the corrections industry. They talked about virtual tours of the prisons, displays with historical artifacts from the prisons, including the gallows that used to be employed at the Kansas State Prison, and displays from vendors who are working on state-of-the-art prisons.
Becicka urged committee members to continue to communicate with her via e-mail until the committee next meets on Dec. 1. After a tour of the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, the group will meet briefly with Becicka.
Project Explore is slated to finish its studies in time for a March deadline to apply for earmarks in the 2007 federal budget. The city hopes to seek funding for construction of the facility from the federal government.