BELTON — The Bell County Commissioners Court heard the Bell County Museum’s end-of-year report on Tuesday.

Museum director Stephanie Turnham said the museum saw a substantial increase in the number of visitors.

In 2012, the museum had a total of 10,126 visitors, while in 2013 the museum had almost 21,000 visitors.

One of the factors that accounted for the 207 percent increase in year-to-year attendance numbers was the museum’s new grant program.

“We give public schools in the county $50 per school bus to come to the museum,” Turnham said. “We gave $2,300 in grants to 23 public schools.”

County Judge Jon Burrows said word of mouth also might be attracting visitors.

“Once someone is there, they tell their family, friends and it’s sort of a multiplication effect,” Burrows said.

While the museum is constantly growing its collection, having added 92 objects in 2013, it rarely purchases items, Turnham said.

“We rely on donations to grow the collection,” she said. “But if we need to restore an item or purchase acid-proof paper or an acid-proof box, we use money from fundraising.”

Turnham said the museum raised a total of $122,859 last year.

The fundraising figure represents a slight increase from 2012’s total of $122,796.

Totals for six of the seven fundraising categories exceeded 2012 levels, Turnham said. Turnham, who will be retiring in August, said the museum receives $276,000 per year from the county for operating costs, including salaries and benefits for four employees.

“That money pays the electric bill and the water bill, and we are glad to have it,” Turnham said. “But everything that makes a museum a museum, the programs and the exhibits, we have to raise money for.”

Although the museum’s endowment account grew substantially last year with the receipt of a $50,000 gift from the estate of Louise MacDonald, the money isn’t going to be touched, Turnham said.

“When you refer to something as an endowment, you don’t touch it; you just let it accrue interest,” Turnham said. “Hopefully, someday, we’ll be able to pay for a salary just out of the interest alone, but we aren’t there yet.”

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