The Juneau-Douglas City Museum's tradition of free winter admission could have ended this year after one of its main sponsors, Harold Fossum, died in December.
But the 5-year-old tradition will continue, thanks to an anonymous resident who will pick up Fossum's sponsorship.
"Many people don't realize that many individuals and groups make our free winter admission program possible," museum director Jane Lindsey said.
The program started in 2001 when the museum's former director asked people and groups to sponsor winter admission. The director thought free admission would increase the number of patrons.
In February 2001, local artist Jim Fowler, who had an exhibit at the city museum, responded to the request and offered to pay admission for the month.
"They let me hang my work for free. I thought it was a nice way to give back," Fowler said.
Fossum picked up the cost for the rest of the winter and also paid for the program in 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, Michelle and Robert Storer, the Gastineau Channel Historic Society and the Pioneer Book Committee joined Fossum to share the cost. Depending on their financial situations, donors can sponsor a month for $386 or a couple of months.
When Fossum died in December, an anonymous donor took his place to keep the free admission program alive.
"It is in the winter when local people come downtown and appreciate downtown," said Marie Darlin, chairwoman of the Pioneer Book Committee, which publishes the Gastineau Channel Memories. "The free admission allows people to be acquainted with the museum."
Michelle Storer, a retired state employee, said she and her husband feel it is especially important for children to have an interesting and educational place to go to in the quieter months of the year.
The free admission has increased winter visitors from 2,014 in 2001 to almost 5,000 last year. The museum's winter months last from October to April. In summer, visitors older than 18 pay $4 for admission.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.