Local museum pushes for more full-time staff funded by city

By Kirk Winter

As part of the 2023 budgeting process, Barbara Doyle, managing director of the Kawartha Lakes Museum and Archives (KLMA), said the museum desperately needs more staff and wants council to fund it.

Doyle said the museum has gone as far as it can go with co-op students, summer students, short-term grant workers and community volunteers.

“Our building is 8,000 square feet,” Doyle said. “It cannot be run with just one (fulltime) person. Multiple people are needed. We need a base staff of trained people to allow us to be open every day. There is no more money coming from the province… and a little support from the city will go a long way.”

She points out this museum is the only one open year-round. “We are a big draw for tourism. We are the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) of the Kawarthas. We have become a research hub for the city. We have truly amazing exhibits that take stories from all corners of Kawartha Lakes, not just Lindsay.”

“We are making a funding ask of $250,000 a year which will go directly towards payroll,” Doyle said. “We would like that amount to become a line item in the city budget and to continue yearly.”

In a follow up exchange of emails with the Advocate, Doyle went into more detail how the city money would be allocated.

Barbara Doyle.

“Our ask of $250,000 will be an added envelope to our general wages budget,” Doyle said, which will help secure a collections manager, archivist, digital content curator and a programming/outreach officer. The city funding would be used to secure (these) positions on a consistent basis, along with providing care for collection, exhibition development, education opportunities, and dedicated programming and community outreach.

Doyle reminded council that every dollar invested in cultural enterprises generates $11.70 in economic spin-off for local hotels, restaurants, shops and gas stations as tourists interested in culture and heritage start to make Kawartha Lakes a stop on their trips of discovery.

“Our dedication to mission must be matched with operational support from council,” Doyle said.

Doyle called the lack of fulltime staffing “the largest risk and blockade to sustained growth.” She added that volunteer staffing is not the answer as they often lack the skills needed in a museum setting. Doyle told council that without trained fulltime staff the museum would struggle to mount multi-year exhibits. Doyle also shared that community donors have told her that they will be far more willing to financially assist the KLMA if they see “buy-in support from our municipality prior to committing their own funds.”

Doyle laid out for council an ambitious 2023 season that will “share stories that have never been told” including a look at the Second World War and the impact it had on the people of Victoria County. Funding has also been received that will allow the digitization of most back issues of the Lindsay Post from 1861 to 1971 and an exhibit on the Laidlaw sisters entitled “The Art of Collecting” is forthcoming.

“We have a massive collection coming in from a donor that will be a gamechanger for the museum,” Doyle said. “The donor has 200,000 photographs of Coboconk and surrounding area taken over the last 200 years. Our growth plan is going to need to accelerate. We will need to build because we will need the space.”

“Help us help you create a strong community museum as well as increase economic benefits for the community in year-round jobs and added revenue,” Doyle concluded. “We have grown faster than we expected and appreciate any support you can give us.”

Mayor Doug Elmslie complimented the KLMA overview calling it “very well done and very detailed.”

Councillor Eric Smeaton wondered if the museum would consider taking more high school co-op students in the future and if Doyle would like to see more students involved with the museum.

“Yes we would,” Doyle said, “but we need fulltime staff to have more students as they need supervision.”

Smeaton asked if the museum is working with the Business Improvement Association (BIA) on joint projects, and whether the museum is looking at bringing back community activities like the very successful ghost walk from years gone by.

“We are looking forward to collaborative partnerships all the time,” Doyle said.

Councillor Ron Ashmore asked if the hiring of city archives curator Angela Fornelli and Laura Love to be a curatorial services officer last year was in any way benefiting the KLMA.

While Doyle was very complimentary to both individuals and the skills sets they possess, Doyle made it clear to the councillor that the women are not employed at the museum.

“Both work (for) the Kawartha Lakes economic development department,” Doyle added in her email to the Advocate. “Angela takes care of the city records department and archival holdings, while Laura is tasked with caring for the city’s 2D and 3D object assets, which would include those at Maryboro Lodge. Both are very busy with their own files, but are absolutely wonderful to work with when we need to information share or have opportunities that may be of interest to the other. I think it is very positive that the city hired both Ms. Fornelli and Ms. Love, as it shows their understanding that collection items need dedicated care and attention by qualified staff. “

“Your building, the bricks and mortar you’re in,” Ashmore asked, “is it working out for you? Is it functional for you?”

“We love our building,” Doyle said. “We are so thrilled to keep a heritage building like this open to the public…I know the city has work planned on the roof, foundation and cleaning up some water issues. A building constructed in 1863 needs updating and maintenance.”

Doyle added that with the removal of the courtyard walls, plans are underway to re-imagine that space with additional parking, a green space and the “potential for a capital build expansion as we grow.”

Council voted to refer the KLMA requests for further budget deliberations later this month.     

1 Comment

  1. Joan Abernethy says:

    Good questions from council; it appears that at least some went to the trouble of having a good think.

    I am happy to see Doyle say she and the KLMA interests she represents are looking forward to collaborative efforts in the future. In the past, when our regional heritage NFP has invited collaboration, Victoria County Historical Society has always said no.

    I have also heard concerns and frustrations expressed about inclusiveness and exclusivity. The age-old feud of Lindsay versus non-Lindsay has still not been laid to rest.

    So glaring is the optic that “Lindsay gets more” that the primary demographic the City required the OHTHA NFP (https://heritagestories.ca) COVID-19 cultural project to serve was residents outside the pre-amalgamation boundaries of Lindsay.

    There is extensive alienation in the heritage community in Kawartha Lakes.

    The KLMA needs to extend better welcome to residents from outside Lindsay who want to be involved with the vision the City has for records and exhibits of our shared history, heritage and culture. We are a diverse community and if we do not recognize what an asset our diverse labour and intellectual capital is, it will harm our economic development, going forward.

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