Topeka State budget problems are threatening not only present-day services but also historical Kansas artifacts.
The system that keeps the air humidified in the Kansas Museum of History’s collections area has been broken since April and needs to be replaced, officials said.
“The system is not functioning,” said Terry Marmet, director of facilities and historic sites for the State Historical Society.
Normally during the winter heating months, officials use the humidifying system to protect thousands of artifacts, such as the State Constitution, battle flags, furnishings, weapons, numerous documents and clothing.
But with no system in place now, officials say they are closely monitoring whether the lack of moisture will damage the artifacts.
“We’re hopeful that one year won’t damage things that much,” Marmet said. Anything that appears to be deteriorating can be moved to a humidified research area, he said.
At a recent committee meeting, legislators seemed concerned about the problem, but acknowledged the state is facing significant budget problems.
“We’re all in this together,” said state Rep. Joe Humerickhouse, R-Osage City.
Under a new state revenue estimate, lawmakers face a $137 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, and, if nothing is done, a $1 billion shortfall in the next year.
Putting in a new humidifying system will cost about $476,000.
“It’s a major project for us, and goes to the core of what we do, which is acquire and protect our Kansas history,” Marmet said.
Under a proposal by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ budget office, the project could be funded over two fiscal years through general state revenues, emergency funds from the historical agency and fees paid by visitors to the state’s historical sites.
Before going forward with the project, Marmet said, officials must wait to see if the Legislature agrees with that approach. Lawmakers return for the 2009 legislative session in January.