This is another article just published in the Branson Tri-lakes News today.
“Veterans Memorial Museum, which houses thousands of artifacts from World War I to the Persian Gulf War, as well as several large bronze statues, is set to close next month, and a portion of the collection will go up for sale a few days later.
Zac Holoch, spokesperson for Nebraska-based Cornerstone Bank, which owns a portion of collection, said the museum’s last day of business will be Aug. 14 and the auction is scheduled for Aug. 21. Cornerstone’s portion of the collection is valued at $20 million.
“We are still looking to find someone to buy the museum as a whole,” Holoch said. “That’s what we’d really like to have happen and keep it as a museum. We don’t want to shut it down; we think it’s important for Branson.”
Holoch said the decision to auction the collection was made last week.
“What we’re thinking is going to happen is someone is going to come forward and buy it, and it will basically be reopened under new ownership, or we’ll be forced to piecemeal it off and, consequently, it’s going to be shut down,” he said.
The hallmark of the museum is a 50-man bronze sculpture that spans 70 feet and weighs 15 tons and depicts soldiers storming a beach. David Barkhoff, the auction organizer with Heritage Global Partners, said each man is sculpted after an individual from every U.S. state.
Barkhoff declined to disclose the assessed value of the piece. The sculpture is just one of many pieces the bank owns and will auction.
Cornerstone Bank gained ownership of the collection in late 2011 from founder Fred Hoppe, but Holoch declined to comment on how the bank came into ownership.
The auction will be in bulk, offering an opportunity for the collection to stay together.
“Some of the artifacts tell a story about a specific war hero, and we want to keep that together,” Barkhoff said.
Such artifacts may be clothing, weapons or personal belongings.
Barkhoff said it’s hard to estimate whether the items will be purchased individually or in bulk.
“We’re preparing ourselves for both outcomes,” he said.
The auction will be broadcast to buyers all around the world via webcast technology, Barkhoff said.
The open preview is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 19-20 at the museum on 76 Country Boulevard. The auction is set to start at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Branson Convention Center, Barkhoff said.
June Tillis, museum manager and a 10-year employee, said she found out about the museum closing this past Friday.
“Well, we’ve known for 2-1/2 years that Cornerstone Bank wanted to do something with the exhibits,” she said. “It’s not a surprise.
“I’m saddened that it’s the end of a great exhibit here in Branson.”
Tillis is remaining optimistic the museum could reopen after the auction.
“(Cornerstone Bank) owns about 40 percent (of the exhibits),” Tillis said. “I hope that (Hoppe) can maybe get it reopened because it’s a great location. He knows a lot of collectors and he may be able to put together a fabulous museum again after the auction.”
As for the remainder of the museum’s time in Branson, Tillis said she hopes it will be spent full of first-time visitors.
“I want to encourage everyone that hasn’t had a chance to see the museum to come out in the next few weeks,” she said. “People that live in the area have these wonderful museums nearby and they should go check them out.”