Lyra Chen-Onion eyed the old carousel at the New York State Museum with a mix of wonder and fear.
“She’s one and a half,” said her mother Alene Onion. “She’s still not sure if she likes it or if it makes her nervous.”
Lyra and her parents were one of many families wandering the museum Sunday afternoon. A few dozen kids kept their parents busy around the fourth-floor exhibits, only slowing down when museum staff Noreen Yost opened the carousel gates and told everyone to pick a horse.
“We always have a lot more kids here on Sundays,” she said as the carousel whirled and the music played. “That’s why it was so painful when they cut back.”
It was the first Sunday the museum has been open for nearly two years.
When the museum’s budget was cut a few years ago, a six-day schedule was implemented. By law, the library and archives, which share a building with the museum, had to stay open on weekdays so lawmakers could do research.
At the time, Sunday was the most efficient day to cut. The entire building could be shut down, which saved money, but there was a problem.
“All of us who worked here pretty much thought it was a bad idea,” said Pat Whalen. “Families come out on Sunday.”
According to Patricia Audi, who has volunteered at the front desk for eight years, before the cut roughly 2,000 visitors would file through the museum each Sunday, much more than any other day of the week.
“Now Sunday is back and we’re all happy about it,” she said.
Recently, museum officials re-examined the schedule.
Director of Operations Tom Ruller said the library and archives will still be open on weekdays and the museum open Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is closed Monday.
Under the new schedule, the building can never be totally shut down, and that costs money.
Ruller didn’t know exactly how much money, but said, “Whenever you have people in the building, you have to have staff and security.”
He said he has been working to streamline operations to make back the loss, adding that it’s nice to have a weekday to clean exhibits and change light bulbs.
Looking around the place, at kids gathered around the Sesame Street exhibit or the carousel, the schedule shift back to Sundays seems like a good plan.
“People are always looking for something family-friendly to do after church,” said Jennifer Melchior of Rensselaer, whose four children and Boy Scout troop marveled over the huge Cohoes Mastodon skeleton.
“This is for kids of all ages,” Yost said. “Even adult children.”
In the afternoon, a large group from a senior center in Cuba, N.Y., rode the elevators to the fourth floor to see the carousel.
Back in the day it used to spin in their hometown and occasionally they come to the museum to check on it.
“When I was little, I didn’t actually get to ride it,” said Jean Higby. “We were poor. It was the Great Depression. We had to wait until we had kids and bring them.”
For more information, visit www.nysm.nysed.gov.