Museum gala online


Organizers of the annual gala to benefit the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum are taking it to another level this year – both virtual and international.

The need for social distancing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic not only prompted the move but inspired a theme that harkened back to vacation traveling.

The theme “Wish You Were Here” not only references 21st Century social distancing, but also recalls a nostalgic phrase on 20th Century vacation postcards, said Museum Director Conrad Froehlich.

“It goes back to those old-timey cards – I’m showing my age,” he said.

The annual gala auction opened online Oct. 3 and will continue to 9 pm Central Time Oct. 24 at Museum Foundation Chair Heather Guernsey said instead of an in-person gala, a 30-minute video presentation will be livestreamed at 7:30 pm Oct. 24 on an event site of the museum’s Facebook page

People who register to bid online will receive text notices if someone else places a higher bid. As of Wednesday, 64 items were available for bids, with more being added and some hidden. 

Ten items had not received bids by Wednesday afternoon, while a beef bundle from MM ranch received 33 bids.

Guernsey urged people to check the givesmart website. The auction items include trips that can be scheduled in 2021, massages, jewelry, artwork, a flame maple tree from Traveling Trees and plastic palm tree from Tony’s Garden Center, and gourmet meals and desserts.

Museum honorary trustees including Hollywood screenwriter M. Miller Davis and comic book editor Roy Thomas have donated items, such as a one-hour video consultation with Davis and signed works by Thomas. Comic book author and Chanute native Karla Pacheco has offered a 20-minute online meet-and-greet and autographed copies of her Spider-Woman relaunch by Marvel.

“There’s basically something for everyone here,” Guernsey said.

The goal this year is to raise $50,000 through the auction and donations.

“The goal is huge,” Guernsey said. “It’s something we have never, ever raised before.”

Last year’s pre-COVID gala attracted about 115 people to the Venue on Main downtown and raised about $15,000, she said.

“The museum needs this money,” Guernsey said.

The 2018-19 fiscal year had a budget of $183,000, and the same was allocated in the fiscal year that just concluded Sept. 30, Froehlich said. When the lockdown began in March to deal with the pandemic, the museum was closed for two months and its only revenue was from store online sales.

Froehlich said it is too soon for accountants to determine what the actual revenue and expense was for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The two previous budget years also included $25,000 set aside for renovations that began in January for the Oceania display. That project has been completed and is still being fine-tuned.

The museum has budgeted $151,200 for the current fiscal year, a $7,000 decrease in operating expenses.

Guernsey said taking the gala and auction online opens them to people all over the country and all over the world.

Although the video presentation will not be interactive, Guernsey said people can still participate in the theme by taking pictures of themselves dressed as if they were in places they want to be, which would be posted on the Facebook page.

“Where would you wish to go right now?” she asked.

That could mean not only Africa or the South Pacific where Martin and Osa Johnson visited, but Bavaria during Oktoberfest or even the Emerald City and Castle Grayskull. Staff at sister museums overseas might dress in American Gothic style with bib overalls and gingham dresses to be in Kansas.

The museum Facebook page has 8,880 followers, and Froehlich said it has a ton of followers from other countries.

He could not determine how many bidders are already registered from outside of Kansas, but expects an uptick in participants closer to the end of the auction.

“Many thousands potentially are familiar with the auction,” he said.

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