Question About Work and Culture Funding


On Twitter, Ian Donnis of RIPR has been sort of arbitrating a dispute between Rep. Patricia Morgan and the Woonsocket Museum of Work and Culture Preservation.  With a group of fellow Republicans, Morgan has proposed a PayGo solution for bridge and road repair and maintenance, including a reprioritization of $200,000 from the museum toward infrastructure.

The museum claims total state funding of around $12,000, not $200,000.  Morgan replies that the Rhode Island Historical Society receives the state funding and uses that money for the museum.  Who’s correct?

According to the latest available 990 form from the museum, for 2013, $12,000 of revenue is in the general area.  On the other hand, the Historical Society’s latest available annual report, dated November 2013, shows a $229,629 line item for “Woonsocket museum.”

In sorting out the distinction, it’s interesting that the annual report lists eight staff members at the Museum of Work & Culture, while the 990 form lists not a single dollar on salaries or benefits and does not list any actual employees.

A complicating factor, however, is that, according to the annual report only 54% of the society’s revenue comes via public support, and “public” doesn’t necessarily mean “government.”  According to, the society receives around $150,000 per year from the federal government, with twice that in 2011.  According to RIOpenGov, the Historical Society receives varying amounts from the state government, sometimes none.

There could be still more to this story than I’m spotting, but for the moment it looks a small portion of the millions of dollars in the GOP’s proposal would need to be found again.  In the state’s massive budget, that shouldn’t be an issue at all.

  • Northern Exposure

    The Form 990 you reference is for the Museum “Foundation”, a non-profit support foundation. It does not operate the museum, has no employees and only supports it through donations and sponsorships of events/exhibits at the museum. Also, it is not just state grants supporting the museum operation.
    The FY2016 City of Woonsocket operating budget includes $35,000 that is among the “donations” to the RI Historical Society which are designated as support for the operation of the museum, in addition to some CDBG funding. Assuming the entire $229,629 is state support of the museum is incorrect.
    The museum has always been supported by the city budget.

    • ShannonEntropy

      With Sherlock Justin on the case, I am quite sure that we will get to bottom of this mystery soon

      Public Money stolen for Private Interests ??

      That would indeed be … the Hounds that DIDN’T bark !!

      • Rhett Hardwick

        “Mr. Holmes, it was the footprint of a gigantic hound”

  • Max

    A museum in Woonsocket? The whole city is a museum. Why would they need another one and why would we want to be the curator?

    • Rhett Hardwick

      It is a cultural museum for those Rhode Islanders not descended from whalers and slavers. As well as I can remember its opening; the targeted group, French Canadians, didn’t care much. I think they abandoned Woonsocket about 2 generations ago. I have been there for a few events, unrelated to the museum’s theme.

      • ShannonEntropy

        It’s not often you hear “Culture” and “Woonsocket” in the same sentence

        • Rhett Hardwick

          I’ll bet they could say “Welcome K-mart shoppers”

  • Phil Hirons Jr

    Sounds like a classic progressive strategy to me. Raise doubt (manufactured at that) about one small piece of the RPG’s proposal and use that doubt to discredit the entire plan. This plan is a great alternative to the sham the Governor is pushing. Way to go Rep Morgan.

    • OceanStateCurrent

      I think it’s both-and. It looks like this very small portion of the very reasonable proposal might have been overstated. The basic principle that infrastructure should be paid out of our existing fees and taxes is in no way challenged by this one piece.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        What both of you say is true, I think we are still tied to the “dead tree” age for formats. It might be hard to clarify all of that info on paper; but in the internet age a little hypertext would make it clear to almost anyone.