Pinellas Armed Forces History Museum Will Close
By JON WILSON, Consulting Editor, TB Reporter
Lack of funding and consistent in-the-red balance sheets are forcing the non-profit museum to shut its doors.
LARGO — The Armed Forces History Museum will permanently close on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m., it was announced at a press conference today.
The museum has been operating in the red since its opening, says the museum’s website. “Due to the lack of funding, as well as the consistent shortage experienced each month, the museum is forced to close its doors,” the website said.
The museum was founded by the late John J. Piazza Sr. whose 55-year span collecting military memorabilia ranging from grenades to tanks resulted in the museum’s grand opening on Aug. 16, 2008. His mission was to ensure that the museum honorably preserved the history and memories of the military and its veterans, as well as to educate youth.
The museum played host to about 25,000 guests annually, thanks to daily visits, group sales, field trips, private event rentals and special events. With a nominal staff, as is typical in most non-profit organizations, nothing would have been possible without support from a devoted base of docents, veterans, active military and volunteers whose contributions were immeasurable, the website said.
Mr. Piazza funded the museum’s deficit right up until his death this past Oct. 3.
Through the museum’s Operation Education program, the museum provided complimentary admission, a hot lunch and bus transportation for underprivileged children. Thousands of youngsters throughout Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties have benefited from this free program. Children latched onto the hands of the museum’s docents/veterans as they provided age-appropriate tours and activities.
Said Linda Whitley, K-8 Social Studies Content Specialist for Pinellas County Schools: “When John Piazza brought the Armed Forces History Museum to Pinellas County schools, he immediately made sure the students would have an appropriate and rich resource in which to learn. We were pleased to help write curriculum for field trips. We will all miss the visits to the museum; many more of us will miss our dear friend and advocate.”
The critically acclaimed museum has won many awards and has been featured in numerous local, regional, national and international television shows and print media.
The Piazza family estate, along with the museum’s board of directors, are currently in discussions regarding the future of the museum’s collections. While the closure of the facility is just two months away, becoming acquired by another organization or the government is being investigated and all opportunities are being considered.
The staff is meeting to create a final day event to show its gratitude and to acknowledge the general public who have been fiercely loyal. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
For more information on the Armed Forces History Museum, visit www.armedforcesmuseum.com.
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