It’s always good when a gamble pays off, especially if it prompts learning. Maybe there’s a lesson in it somewhere.
New figures for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014-2015 show attendance at the History Museum of Mobile in the Old City Hall on S. Royal Street has risen 40 percent. Two factors are at play in the positive trend.
One is the Ark of India exhibit showcasing the work and travels of Mobile artist Roderick D. MacKenzie. The mixture of masterpieces and artifacts has wowed visitors both illustrious and average since premiering in October 2014.
The second factor is the waiving of entrance fees as decreed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson last fall. It makes the site the most affordable attraction in town.
“When Mayor Stimpson announced we would be a free museum, we were very pleased and excited about what his decision meant for the future of the History Museum,” Museum Director David Alsobrook said in a press release. “We were also optimistic about how his decision would affect our attendance. While these figures surpass our initial expectations, they also confirm what individual visitors have been telling the staff for months: free admission is bringing in more out-of-town visitors, and more taxpayers from throughout south Alabama. We’re thrilled with the results.”
Other local attractions aren’t far above the zero dollar range. The USS Alabama costs $15 for entrance. The Gulf Coast Exploreum is $13.50. The Mobile Museum of Art is $10 except for Thursdays when fees are waived. The Mobile Carnival Museum is only $5, the only one cheaper than the History Museum’s previous standard. The GulfQuest Maritime Museum rumored to be opening in 2015 has floated out an entrance fee of $18.
The History Museum of Mobile is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The exhibits in place for February include Preserving a Culture: West African Art in the Deep South containing the work of Israel Lewis, III. Lewis is a descendant of the last living survivor of the Clotilda tragedy, Cudjoe Lewis.
The elder was among the slaves illegally shipped to Mobile in 1860 who settled in the Plateau area that became known as Africatown. Family knowledge of Tarkar art and handiwork has been passed down through generations as legacy.
Ark of India runs through September 2015. Upcoming exhibitions and events include “What’s at Stake?” featuring local artists’ depictions of the Mobile Delta for the fifth anniversary of the 2010 oil spill, Colonial Day at Fort Conde in March and a slate of speakers like filmmaker Margaret Brown and author Watt Key.