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Haughton museum owner worried about future

Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum Owner Lura Touchstone is concerned that the longstanding educational piece of the Haughton community will soon have to close. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A staple of the Haughton community is in danger of closing.

Business at Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum has declined to where they fear its days are numbered.

Owner Lura Touchstone said the museum can’t make enough to pay their bills and is scared she will have to close the doors for good.

“We are going to keep it open as long as we can, but it’s hard sometimes. I’m scared one day we might have to close,” Lura said. “When you have two or three people coming in a day, that doesn’t pay the bills. We also don’t have near the amount of school children coming in like we used to.

She added that school field trips were crucial to the museum’s survival.

“This place is so educational for school-age children,” she said.

The Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum has been a staple in the Haughton community for more than three decades.

Opened in 1981 by the Touchstone family, the museum has two floors and showcases animals from all over the world mounted life-size in their natural habitat with beautiful backgrounds painted by professional artists. Also on display are arrowheads, bone tools, war relics, antiques, crystals, gems, rocks, minerals and Bonnie & Clyde memorabilia.

Lura said the museum was something her husband, Sam, always wanted for the community.

Lura Touchstone and her daughter Samantha Olson are continuing the dream of their husband and father, Sam, by keeping the museum open to the community. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

“The museum was my husband’s dream, which became my dream,” Lura said. “We did it together. It was amazing to start and build this together.”

Sam passed away in 2002. Lura and their daughter, Samantha Olson, are now in charge of running the museum.

“It was always his dream to open this museum and he made it happen. He saw beauty in the animals and wanted to share it with the community,” Samantha said.

Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum is also in need of some major and expensive building upkeep materials. But with the lack of funds, they are not able to complete the maintenance.

“Mom can hardly pay the bills as it is and we can’t fix the leaking roof or the elevator,” Samantha said. “We have seniors that come in sometimes and with no working elevator they can’t go up stairs. And that just breaks my heart because they are missing out on so much stuff.”

The Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum initially opened with only a few displays. Today, there are hundreds of animals to see, including a family of full-size zebras and giraffes, just to name a few.

The museum was close to extinction last year, but the community rallied around it. In March 2017, Touchstone was facing closure when some patrons stepped in via social media to spur the community to support it.

Lura and Samantha are hopeful that they can find a way to keep going now.

“We’re just keeping it going for (Sam) the best we can,” Samantha said. “The community doesn’t have anything like this. We don’t have a zoo in the area, this is about the closest thing to it.”

The Touchstone Wildlife & Art Museum is located 2.2 miles east of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs on Highway 80. Seasonal hours are February – September, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and October – January, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Admission is $5. Children age three and under are admitted free with a paid adult ticket. Group reservations are available for schools, scout groups, church groups, etc.

For more info, call 318-949-2323. You can also visit their website at www.touchstonemuseum.com.