Turkish group sends SC museum collection to Missouri

EDGEFIELD, SC (AP) — The Winchester Museum in Edgefield has celebrated wild turkeys and their preservation for decades, but the collections there will soon be packed, shipped and installed at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. .

The National Wild Turkey Federation, whose collection is in Winchester, first broke the news in an email to members and then publicly on September 27.

“There are so many stories out there. There is so much information to tell about wild turkey restoration,” said federation spokesman Pete Muller.

The federation will also be closing its warehouse here, outsourcing the fulfillment and shipping of its goods to a third party, and moving its headquarters from the museum’s current location on Augusta Road in Edgefield to a new (as yet unknown) location. In the region.

No specific timeline has yet been set for any of the changes. Muller said even sending the collections to the Springfield museum is still being finalized and discussions are ongoing with Johnny Morris, founder of that museum and also CEO of Bass Pro Shops.

In a way, it will be like the collections coming home: Morris had contributed to the Winchester exhibits and was described as a “longtime friend” of the National Wild Turkey Federation,

Such a move to Springfield will greatly expand the exposure of the collections. Muller estimated the “pre-pandemic peak” of the Winchester museum at 10,000 visitors a year… compared to the million annual patrons who flock to the Morris museum.

Decisions on the Winchester museum, warehouse and headquarters location were made by the federation’s board in August as part of a strategic facilities plan that Muller said would allow the organization to better focus on its primary goal of conservation and to remain a viable institution for another 50 years.

“We are not looking to let Edgefield down,” Muller assured. “There will be no loss of seat. There’s just going to be the idea of ​​moving to something that’s more in line with what we promote, which is wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement.

As recently as 2015, the federation was still investing heavily in its physical presence here in Edgefield, pouring $18 million into the development and construction of the Palmetto Shooting Complex as well as the Hunting Heritage Center and Outdoor Education Center on the main campus. .

But the federation began to tighten capital spending in 2017 when Becky Humphries first took the helm as the organisation’s new chief executive.

That summer, the National Wild Turkey Federation closed its Turkey Shoppe on Main, a retail outlet for surplus merchandise, and laid off 17 employees.

The reasoning then (“We’re financially sound, and the intention was to keep us sound,” Humphries told the Aiken Standard) was the same as it is now, Muller assured: the new changes are happening. as part of a “forward-thinking plan”. Not because “they have to”, he said, but to “prosper for another 50 years”.

“We’re trying to position the organization to be resilient to any future event that comes along,” Muller said.

The changes this time around won’t result in job losses either, he said – the federation simply doesn’t need all that square footage for what has become a workforce. largely distant work. “Right now we have a building that is used by very few of our employees,” Muller said.

The National Wild Turkey Federation is also only using a “fraction” of its local warehouse space than it needed a decade ago, according to the email sent to members.

More effective merchandising between chapters of the organization and the ability to tailor merchandise to a particular event by going directly to preferred vendors has greatly reduced this reliance on internal warehousing, co-CEO Jason Burckhalter explained. .

“By moving to a third-party provider for shipping and warehousing, we can further capitalize on commodity options, (and) efficiencies and provide the most cost-effective solution to our chapters,” he said.

Warehouse workers “will be offered other available National Wild Turkey Federation positions or severance packages as we phase out warehouse operations in Edgefield over the next year,” it says. the member’s email address.

Eventually, the warehouse and its adjoining land will be put on the market.

Muller said property sales, whether for the warehouse or corporate headquarters, would only occur after the museum’s collections were safely moved into their new home. Proceeds from sales will also be reinvested in the nationwide organization.

Muller also confirmed that the federation would retain ownership of its 300-acre Palmetto Shooting Complex, a key aspect of the organization’s footprint here and part of a total 700 acres that includes hiking trails and a outdoor education center.

But, Muller added, “Whether or not the remaining 400 acres (adjacent to the shooting complex) remains a part of things will depend on when Market Headquarters comes, whether or not that will make it more attractive to potentials.” buyers. »

Abandoning the existing “Wild Turkey Center” and its nearby warehouse could attract new businesses to Edgefield that can make better use of the space, Muller said.

Tiffani Ireland, Edgefield County Council member for District 2, said she too was confident that once the properties came on the market they would be picked up by someone else who would add to the economic engine of ‘Edgefield.

“It’s a loss, but I believe our economic development partnership will work diligently to find another business to locate here,” she said. “The Federations campus is absolutely beautiful, and Edgefield – the city and county – has so much to offer potential businesses.

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