A Binghamton cultural icon might be forced to close amid a funding shortfall.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bundy Museum of History & Art was the home of Harlow Bundy, who started manufacturing time-recording clocks with his brother in 1889. By 1924, the Bundy Manufacturing Company had grown and merged to become International Business Machines (IBM), now a global technology company. In a recent statement, the museum — which shares its campus with three nonprofits and an independent bookstore — announced the “devastating” loss of a major donor and that it may close its doors at the end of the year.
Eric Eckman, the Bundy Museum’s director of operations, art gallery director and events coordinator, described the institution’s place in Binghamton’s arts community.
“The Bundy Museum is an ever-growing community resource, with a mission of preserving local history and promoting local arts,” Eckman wrote in an email. “The [museum] serves as a community space for the area’s vibrant local music scene, hosting numerous concerts, shows and festivals in our theater and museum grounds.”
Fifteen percent of the museum’s yearly budget is from foundations and grants, 20 percent is from admissions fees, museum services, programs, shows and facility rentals and 65 percent is from individual donors and underwriting, according to Eckman. No funding comes from the City of Binghamton.
The museum opened in 2004 to promote the arts and preserve both the Victorian Era and the history of the Bundy family and company. Permanent exhibitions include a 1930s barbershop which was across the street from IBM — representative of the company’s corporate culture — and the Bundy Time Clock Exhibit, an homage to the Bundy’s company through its signature product — the Workman Time Clocks.
Apart from running guided tours of the Bundy House and exhibiting both local artists and “collections of local significance,” the Bundy Museum operates several offshoot projects. They include Binghamton Photo, a community darkroom and photography lab, WBDY-LP, an FM radio station broadcasting local artists and WordPlace, a literary center running workshops and author readings.
“We, as always, remain dedicated to this mission and expanding the work done here, which touches so many of us who have made this area our home,” the Bundy Museum’s original statement said.
In a statement to the Binghamton Homepage, Alexis Tauteroff, Binghamton Photo’s darkroom manager said that the museum did not want to raise guided tour prices because of accessibility efforts. Currently, museum members and children younger than 10 enter for free, while general admission tickets cost $7 and students and seniors pay $5.
Zachary Zehr, a Binghamton University senior majoring in geological sciences, described the museum as a “beautiful display of art” in the community.
“[The Bundy Museum’s] a wonderful venue that allows [for] the growth of artists in the area,” Zehr wrote in an email. “Bands and artists that have presented there have gone on to do amazing things, and I believe it is a piece of Binghamton that needs the help of the community in order to put on more shows and allow more art to be let out into the world.”
Ella Kasper, a junior majoring in psychology, currently performs with her bands Mall Goth and In Angel’s Care and books shows under Byrdhouse Records. She described how the Bundy Museum inspired her creative journey because of its accessibility and generosity in providing an infrastructure.
“Going to local shows as a freshman was extremely inspiring to me, and I remember being amazed by the amount of people who would come out for shows hosted in basements, backyards, living rooms [and] garages,” Kasper wrote in an email. “I’ve noticed that we have a passionate group of musicians and showgoers involved in the local scene, but no real venues to host shows except for the Bundy Museum. [It] allows us to enrich the local arts community and inspire others to perform, thrash and make friends.”