Olde Gaol Museum board says funding needed to hire staff or museum can’t open

By Kirk Winter

Peterborough County provides $645,000 just to cover their museum staffing costs while the museum in Minden receives $63,000 from Haliburton County.

The volunteer board responsible for the Olde Gaol Museum presented to council  a stark future for the city’s largest tourist attraction if it can’t get city funding soon.

Jane Gregory-Gill, a director of the Victoria County Historical Society, told councillors that if $132,000 for the hiring of two full-time staff is not forthcoming from the city, the museum will not be able to re-open for the 2021 tourist season. Currently, there are no salaried positions at the museum.

“The lack of full-time staff is slowing the work at the museum,” Gill said. “Currently the volunteer board is managing the collection for the people of Kawartha Lakes. The board has done great work. We have 16,000 artifacts and a 24,000 square foot facility to manage.”

“We need trained and skilled people who know the legislation,” Gill continued. “We want to make it the best museum possible. We are putting the organization at great risk. Additional funding is not available unless we have a full-time manager in place and endowment boards will not donate unless there is baseline funding available from the municipality.”

Gill reminded councillors that Peterborough County provides $645,000 just to cover their museum staffing costs while the museum in Minden receives $63,000 from Haliburton County to help with the costs of funding a stable and professional museum structure with full-time staff.

“If there is no funding we won’t be re-opening the doors,” Gill said. “We are the largest attraction in the city and it is far cheaper for the city to provide funding than take the museum over completely. This will ensure the best outcomes for the city.”

Mayor Andy Letham proposed a fast-tracked report on options for the city and the museum regarding staffing to be brought back early in April. Letham also complimented Gill on her report saying she “made some great points.”

Councillor Patrick O’Reilly wanted to know how urgent the need for funding is and how long the museum can continue to operate while the city considers its options.

“We can carry on until the end of April,” Gill said. “We lost out on $65,000 worth of COVID relief funding because we had no full-time staff.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore wanted to know if the artifacts are being well taken care of considering what is going on at the museum.

“Proper storage practices are being put in place,” Gill responded. “It is improving weekly.”

Ashmore continued asking how hard the museum has worked at accessing corporate funding and cultivating partnerships amongst the private sector.

“We have worked hard at both of those,” Gill said. “People don’t give to volunteer boards of directors. Even a museum like the ROM needs help. The city of Toronto provides over $14,000,000 in funding to assist their museums.”

Right now the museum works with one project manager in a contract position that ends March 31. There are also two young Canada Works Heritage intern positions that are full time under grant funding, that will also end March 31.

After discussion, council unanimously supported a report by staff proposed by the mayor.

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