The Museum Society, a private 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded in 1985 to provide supplementary financial and VOLUNTEER support to the Silver City Museum. The Museum Society augments operational support from the Town of Silver City, enhancing Museum programming and public services with supplementary staffing (paid and volunteer), equipment, and outreach support. Society funding has supported speaker honoraria, exhibit materials and transportation fees, professional development, printing, publications, and special project support. The organization has successfully conducted several capital campaigns, generating $800,000 worth of facilities improvements for the Museum in the past 18 years.
The Society presents a variety of public events and programs throughout the year, including an ongoing lecture series, exhibit openings, guided Museum tours and historic district walking tours, annual events such as the Fourth of July Ice Cream Social and Victorian Christmas Evening, and community gatherings in the Museum Courtyard.
A twelve-member BOARD OF DIRECTORS administers the Society's business and budget, with an additional voting position reserved for a representative from the city Museum Board. The Museum Director is a non-voting Society board member. In an innovative move that achieved mention in a recently published handbook for museum trustees, the board of the Silver City Museum Society now meets jointly with the mayor-appointed municipal Museum Board. Although the two entities must maintain their separate legal identities, the boards collaborate wherever possible in strategic planning and institutional development for the Museum.
Operating under the umbrella of the Silver City Museum Society is the Museum Society Foundation, administering the Museum's endowment fund. The endowment was established in 1994 when the Museum Society received a bequest of $142,000. In 1994 the Silver City Museum Society Foundation was organized under the care of the Society to administer and make investments for our newly established endowment fund. Its own five-member board has elected representation from the Society's board and membership body, along with the Museum Director, who is a voting member.
Society fundraising and VOLUNTEER efforts have resulted in major upgrades to the Museum facility, including a large expansion/improvement project in 1988 which created a professional quality collections care wing and exhibition gallery; development of a landscaped courtyard and parking lots in 1989; extensive rehabilitation of the historic H.B. Ailman house in 1993-94; another major landscape project dedicated in 1997; and an addition and improvements to the collections care wing in 2002. An ambitious volunteer-led project in 1991 saw the reconstruction of the original east porch of the Ailman House and conversion of the original kitchen into a meeting facility.
Publications by the Silver City Museum Society include walking tour guides to three Silver City historic neighborhoods, as well as the first (1986) and second (1995) editions of the book Built to Last: An Architectural History of Silver City, New Mexico by Susan Berry and Sharman Apt Russell. In 1996 the Society sponsored the preservation filming and video duplication of "Silver City On Parade," a 1940 promotional film originally shown in local theaters. Calendars featuring historic photographs from southwest New Mexico have been published as a fundraising project by the Museum Society for the past five years.