Museum proposes significant expansion

Massive fundraising effort to get underway soon

By Kirk Winter

The Kawartha Lakes Museum and Archives laid out an ambitious plan in a presentation to council on Nov. 8 – a plan that includes an 18,000 square foot addition be added to the existing building, which will cover most of the former south courtyard space, at the cost of $18-20 million. File photo.

In a presentation to council Nov. 8, Barbara Doyle, managing director of the Kawartha Lakes Museum and Archives (KLMA), laid out an ambitious 2024-2028 strategic plan for the organization. A key part of the plan proposes that an 18,000 sq ft addition be added to the existing building that will cover most of the former south courtyard space, at the cost of $18-20 million.

The organization said that the multi-purpose 180-foot by 50-foot addition would include “exciting exhibition halls, accessible community meeting spaces, an archival reading room, and more.”

KLMA imagines that the addition, with three storeys above ground, and two additional levels below grade, “will provide ample storage and preservation spaces with almost 12,000 sq ft of space designed specifically for the conservation process, optimum environmental control and ease of access to (the museum’s) ever-growing archival and object collection in mind.”

Doyle told the Advocate that the organization would be launching their capital build fund soon, hoping for shovels in the ground by 2028 and the facility open to the public by 2030.

When asked where the money for the build would be found, Doyle said that 30 per cent would come from the federal government, a “little bit would come from the province,” and the remaining $10-12 million would come from private donors, family foundations, local businesses and other available government grants.

Doyle said that the municipality, which owns the current museum site, will be contributing in different ways by providing the land for the build and the expertise once the project reaches the bid and construction stages.

“We are a serious organization doing serious work,” Doyle said. “We are bursting at the seams. The city recognizes the value of this heritage space being open full-time and they know that this project is a continuation of putting good money after good money.”

Doyle added she is hopeful that Kawartha Lakes will double the current wage subsidy that KLMA receives from $125,000 in 2023 to $250,000 in 2024, to allow the museum to hire and keep good people.

The strategic plan laid out very clearly some of the problems the organization is having with their current building, and why this addition is so important to the future of KLMA.

First, the museum’s collection, both object and archival holdings, are growing at an exponential rate, and the building as it is currently constituted has finite space available for storage and processing space. The KLMA fears that over the next 3-5 years as more donations are received current exhibit or programming spaces will need to be redirected towards storing artifacts.

The strategic plan pointed out that KLMA is already having to decline donations from the community due to lack of space or ability to receive and store items. The museum also faces the problem that they have no loading dock or freight elevator which impacts the ability to receive larger or bulky items.

Second, most of the current museum’s spaces reflect the reality that it was once an operating jail. The walls are 40 centimetres thick, and spaces are tight. The KLMA says there are challenges in accommodating shelving and other wall mounted storage solutions. Most storage areas in the museum are within former prisoner cells, all of which are limited by the presence of cell bars.

Third, the museum utilizes what they call a “rabbit-warren” of basement spaces in the old jail including the former institutional kitchen. These spaces are less than ideal for collection storage and current staff have spent years trying to optimize these spaces with the hope that better options would be available in the future.

Last, the KLMA believes that the best solution to creating environmentally controlled and thoughtfully sized collection archive spaces in something like a purpose-built modern addition “would be most beneficial to the collection long term.”

Doyle was pleased with the response her presentation received from council.

“The city is very supportive,” Doyle said. “They knew our plan was coming and they realize it will become a significant city asset once completed.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.