A Moray museum could be heading for the history books if councillors fail to back a funding SOS today.
The team behind Elgin Museum are pleading with Moray Council for a grant of £44,500 to allow it to stay open for the next three years.
Last night a spokeswoman for the volunteer group warned it was “sink or swim” time for the attraction, which is home to some of the region’s most important artefacts.
Moray Society spokeswoman Janet Trythall said: “We need this money to keep going.”
The local authority’s economic development and infrastructure services committee will decide today whether to refer the funding request on to the local authority’s policy and resources committee for a final decision.
Established on the town’s High Street in 1843, the venue is the oldest of its kind in Scotland, however volunteers fear its days could be numbered if councillors vote against their application.
Among its collections are more 900 fossils – some 350 million years old, Roman coins, Pictish symbol stones found near Craigellachie and artwork by John Constable and JMW Turner.
The museum is run independently by the Moray Society, and relies on memberships, visitor donations and contributions from local businesses to stay afloat.
Dr Trythall, said it was proving more and more difficult to balance the books.
“There is the potential that this could be a sink-or-swim decision for us, and in many ways I am anxious about what we are going to do if we don’t get the funding,” she said.
The retired anaesthetist said losing the museum – which charges no admission – would damage Moray’s tourist industry.
She said: “If Moray doesn’t have a museum in its main town it does detract from what the area has to offer visitors.
“We appreciate the economic situation is tough, but we feel that we can give a lot back to the town through the money we hope to be given.
“We’re not begging – if the council approves the grant it will get a lot back from us.”
The four-star visitor attraction is based in a grade A-listed building and hosts an array of treasures native to the region and from further afield.
The society is requesting the £44,500 grant be split over three years, in annual allotments of £18,500, £15,000 and £11,000.
A funding application submitted to the council estimates the museum will take in an average of £32,579 over the next three years if funding is granted, but notes that projections for donations can not be guaranteed.
The report to committee notes that funding could allow the museum to increase visitor numbers and diversify into staging weddings and corporate events to ensure its future survival.
Councillors will be told: “It is anticipated that the visitor numbers will increase from 10,537 to over 14,000 per year with a predicted economic impact of £1.8million for the area.”
The Speyside Tourism group was approached as a consultee and has backed the museum’s plans.
Elgin community council chairman Alistair Kennedy said: “I would certainly be sad if the museum was to close, as would many others in the town.
“But it may be that the museum has to revise things such as offering free entry in the future.
“This is a tough decision for the council given the current financial situation – and whether members will be willing to spend that amount on the museum I don’t know.
“The council have recently rejected funding requests on other worthwhile causes, such as the Moray Hydrotherapy Pool.”