Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1950 No. 230 - Mar 2 1950
Attorney General Smith Troy


A city of the first class which neither owns nor maintains a museum and the exhibits therein may not donate municipal funds for its support.

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                                                                   March 2, 1950

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State of Washington
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 230

Attention:  !ttLawrence Hubble, Chief Examiner
            Division of Municipal Corporations

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request of October 4, 1949, in which you ask whether the City of Spokane may legally use public moneys, as a donation, to contribute to the maintenance and operation of a museum which it does not own.

            Our conclusions are that a city of the first class, having historical materials, may provide quarters for their storage, preservation and exhibition and may provide funds for this purpose.  It may further provide such space and care by paying a local historical society for this space and service.


            You have pointed out that the Washington Public Museum in Spokane, Washington, and exhibits therein are owned by an organization other than the municipality and that the city has no interest therein, but under a division of its budget devoted to organized charities, makes an annual contribution or donation of $2800 to the association operating the museum, which we understand is the Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

            The City of Spokane, being of the first class, has certain powers relative to public auditoriums and art museums owned by itself.  See section 1, page 94, Laws of 1925, Ex. Sess. (Rem. Rev. Stat. 8981-2) and  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] section 1, chapter 98, Laws of 1937 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 8981-4).

            The city, however, does not own the museum in question, but we have found from our independent inquiries that the city does have a substantial collection of artistic and historical value, and under the provisions of chapter 160, Laws of 1949 (8265-9, et. seq. Rem. Supp. 1949) has the authority to provide quarters for such exhibits within the territorial limits of the city.  Said act does not limit municipal corporations to quarters owned by it, and it is therefore our opinion that the City of Spokane may provide for the storage, preservation and exhibition of said collections by housing them in a privately owned museum within the city, and may place custody thereof in the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, and may expend reasonable sums up to the limit provided by chapter 160, Laws of 1949, in defraying its share of the expense of the housing of said collections.

            Said expenditure, however, should be provided by a definite item in the annual city budget rather than to appear to be making a charitable contribution from the funds allocated in said budget for municipal charities.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General