Just how far can the pocketbooks of donors to young earth creation-based organizations be stretched? We may soon find out as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) based in Dallas Texas has announced an ambitious new creation museum named the “Dallas Museum of Science and Earth History.” This $24 million dollar project, long in the works, recently launched a donation campaign. You can read about this new museum here: http://www.icr.org/museum
At present $3.3 million has already been spent to prepare for the project. That leaves over 20 million yet to be raised to complete the project. Where will those funds come from?
To put this in perspective, the Ark Encounter, which is the latest project of Answers in Genesis, has already raised, and spent, nearly 23 million dollars. They suggest, via their Ark Encounter website, that they need about 30 million for the entire project leaving them with another 7 million dollars to raise to complete the project.
The Ark currently under construction in northern Kentucky is a much reduced version of the original Ark Encounter “complex” which originally included many more “attractions” than just Noah’s Ark (see: https://arkencounter.com/about/park-map/) . Phase I originally had an estimated cost of “144,500,000” per the original economic impact planning document. That is far higher than the $30 million being spent on the current project. That huge discount partly the result of lack of donations and loss of tax incentives from Kentucky the latter still undergoing litigation.
Nonetheless, we are talking millions of dollars all of which must come from donations since neither ICR or AiG generate revenue beyond their operating expenses. Even the Creation Museum, as successful as AiG might claim it to be operates at a loss as far as can be ascertained by IRS 990 forms. (see my post: Evaluating the State of Creationism: Creationist Finances)
Can the subset of the evangelical Christian community that supports these young earth organizations increase their contributions beyond their historical norms to support these very expensive pet projects? I have my doubts.
Answers in Genesis has claimed their own independently commissioned impact study tells them they will draw fantastic numbers to the Ark Encounter. However, my reading of that document suggests those numbers are based on all or most of the Ark Encounter complex, all $144 million or more of it, being constructed. Since only the Ark itself, admittedly the most important part, is being constructed those numbers are inflated and the Ark is likely to become a greater financial albatross than currently projected.
Did the AiG study consider growing competition for their primary consumers dollars? No they did not. If this new museum in Dallas, TX gets off the ground it will only be because dollars that might have otherwise gone to the Ark Encounter and AiG are now coming to ICR. ICR and AiG have to go after the same pool of people to increase donations. Over the past decade donations to both groups has flattened or even dipped so the fight to increase donations will be a very difficult one. Already, Henry Morris of ICR and especially Ken Ham of AiG have sent increased numbers of personal pleas for estate donations and other forms of monies. It is unclear just how many more times these organizations can go back to the same well.
Even if both projects are completed, a big if for the new museum in Texas, the two museums will be competing for the same visitors which will inevitably reduce revenues for both over original projections. This will strain their finances even more, requiring more money from donations just for a growing set of operative and infrastructure expenses.
I have not been convinced that the Ark Encounter will be solvent but with increased competition by ICR one has to wonder if any of these projects can thrive or even survive.