Why is a museum in Lewiston and Auburn important? Research shows having a museum in your community stimulates economic activity and the revitalization of downtowns.

Museum L-A has contributed over $6 million in economic impact and spurred economic growth in this community since 2004. It has been identified as a catalyst to the revitalization of the downtowns and as a major contributor to this community’s competitiveness.

Since Museum L-A opened, we have received visitors from 41 states and 12 countries and have become a tourism destination. Through the past six years, the museum has steadfastly collected 250 oral histories of local citizens — an amazing legacy.

In 2012, we reached more than 8,000 people in the museum and at outside events. We don’t see walls as boundaries to meeting community needs. Businesses have identified Museum L-A as a major asset in attracting professionals and executives to the area, promoting the two cities, local businesses and their achievements, and as a key player in the future of the community.

Museum L-A is at a crossroads, facing major growing pains as it confronts the uncertainty of a temporary location and move toward a new site by the riverfront in the next two or three years, which supporters enabled us to acquire in record time.

We received large grants, created great momentum while we strove to establish a solid operational foundation, and worked on the future development of our new museum.

With the economic downturn and the drying up of much foundation and grant support, Museum L-A seeks bridge funding as we continue to make strides toward sustainability — our major goal.

If we are to survive, Museum L-A needs to raise an additional $85,000 a year for operations for the next three years.

We have endured and grown through the spirit of “survivance” of our ancestors. Shoestring budget and bootstraps are not unfamiliar words to us and every penny counts.

It is major decision time.

Together, as a community, we need to find a way to bridge the gap or make the hard decision that a Museum in L-A is not meant to be.

We are asking everyone to invest in the future of this community. We need creative thinking of how we are going to make this community asset a reality. It will take more than who we are as a small organization to make this huge undertaking a reality. This major opportunity is in front of all of us.

We need people believing in us, just as our elderly supporter does who sends $2 each year and apologizes she can’t do more; the nine-year-old who left our program saying — “I didn’t know learning could be so much fun”; the local businessman who stopped in and gave us a $5,000 check saying “this is too important for the community — here’s a beginning to your $85,000 quest”; or, the young man who called to see if he could help by becoming a board member.

Others can come see for themselves and tell us how we can become more vital, more important and reflect families, businesses and our community better.

I ask that people share where they see us fit in the scheme of a future vibrant community.

We are proud to say that growth has allowed us to develop into a regional center of learning, community connection and cultural preservation. We engage, excite and challenge the children. We choose to think outside the box with our L-A Mini Maker Faire, Kids as Curators Program, Bands on the Run, Old Fashioned Holiday Celebration, Echoes in Time and Dance Party under the Stars.

We act as a community think-tank where residents can explore the past, deepen understanding of the present, and illuminate the future.

We have become a community change agent, raising the consciousness of local residents and visitors of our proud, diverse heritage, transcending the boundaries that separate people and groups.

We reveal and celebrate the character, culture and resourcefulness of our people. We draw on the strong traditions of ingenuity and innovation found in Lewiston-Auburn in everything it does.

We have grown in significance to the community, the state and at national levels as an interpretive institution, as collaborators and as a leader in the museum field.

We are not an ordinary museum because we are L-A grown. It is said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” I say, “it takes a community to create and build a museum.”

Rachel Desgrosseilliers is executive director of Museum L-A in Lewiston.

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