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Battleship New Jersey hit hard in its cashbox

As its chief departs for another job, the museum cuts back public tours.

Emergency budget cutbacks in Trenton have cost the Big J about $1.3 million in funding.
Emergency budget cutbacks in Trenton have cost the Big J about $1.3 million in funding.Read more

The Battleship New Jersey's chief executive officer is departing for another job just as the museum announced a monthlong shutdown to general-admission visitors in an effort to cut costs.

Troy Collins, who has headed the Battleship New Jersey staff for 61/2 years, said it was a difficult decision to leave the museum he has played such a large role in creating. He will become the senior vice president of marketing, programming and business development at the Franklin Institute.

The New Jersey "will always be close to my heart, but I'm also very excited about my new role with the Franklin," Collins said.

Collins started at the battleship just eight months after the museum opened to the public.

On his watch, Collins said, the museum has expanded its tours, and attendance has grown. The battleship opened six new exhibits, enlarged its overnight-encampment program, added a flight simulator and concessions, and started private fund-raising.

"We built the battleship into one of the top museums and attractions in the Delaware Valley," said Collins, whose replacement has not been announced. "Most importantly, we've fulfilled our mission: the continued preservation of a very important historical artifact" and the recognition of veterans and active duty personnel.

Among the toughest challenges Collins has faced was a steep cut recently in state funding for the museum. Funding dropped from $2.8 million last fiscal year to $1.5 million this year.

In response, the battleship cut eight full-time staff, or 20 percent of its full-time workers.

Collins said that while admissions have remained strong, the state funding cut forced the museum to pursue revenues more aggressively and to trim costs.

The cost-cutting measures will include closing the museum to general-admissions visitors for the month of January, when attendance is typically lowest. Group tours and special events will continue. Normally, the museum opens only on weekends for general-admissions visitors during the winter.

In February, the museum will reopen for general admissions Fridays through Mondays, said Jack Willard, the museum's vice president of marketing. Beginning the second weekend of March, the museum will be open every day again from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Willard said closing the museum to general admissions would save on personnel and utility costs.

"It's tough economic times; however, we're still stable. We plan on giving our guests the best experience we can," Willard said.