Curator's Corner

Excerpt* from the:

Curator’s Corner

Jim Millar

This is my opportunity to rant and rave remembering the old saying: ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’. Operating a small museum has always been a big job taking a lot of dedication of volunteers as the search for funds for its operations is an endless thankless task. Adding professionalism through staff and training requires even more funding. Recently the Federal Government announced cuts to its Museum Assistant Program and the Summer Career Placement for hiring students! Usually Museums don’t get political but if we want any grease we had better squeak very loudly.

The Port Moody Station Museum has depended on HRSDC’s Summer Career Placement (SCP) program for over 10 years to keep the Museum open in the summer. The program pays 80% of the students’ wages. In 2005 and 2006 we had 4 and 3 students respectively. We have accomplished much and have not “wasted” taxpayer’s dollars. The requirements for the Museum Assistance Program (MAP) are that the Museum be open year-round with at least one full-time employee. In 2002 we met these requirements and have been successful with our grant applications for the last three years. We received less than half of what we requested this year. The purpose of these funds is to help with Collections. These funds were utilized by making essential upgrades by the installation of compact shelving, new furnaces and the addition of air conditioning. These are all essential upgrades for any small Museum.

The Official Opposition passed a motion for the Government to rescind the proposed cuts however, this motion is not binding, thus, the cuts are still in effect. The deadline to apply for the 2007 MAP program was November 1st. placing things on hold for an unknown period of time until a resolution is reached. A new National Museum Policy replacing the 1970’s model was on the table for the last Federal Government and died when the election was called. The New Government was in favour of the New Policy when in opposition but no longer considers it a priority.

It is not just the Federal Government as the Provincial Government is also adding to our woes. The majority of Direct Access funding is acquired through the Gaming Commission of charitable gambling funds. The funding allotted to charities has only seen a “cost of living” increase, not the actual increase in gambling revenues. The term “Charitable Gambling” is becoming an oxymoron as more and more gambling money is funneled into provincial general revenues. Also, the number of charities has grown from 2,000 in 2002 to over 6,000 today spreading the funds very thin.

Question: Should museums be a charity in the first place? Yes, we should be able to give tax receipts for private donations which enhance the preservation of our heritage. We are not considered as an essential service for the betterment of our community. These thoughts and questions were raised at the recent BC Museums Association conference in Prince George. The Keynote Speaker provoked thought when he stated there are two groups a museum has a responsibility to – our ancestors and our future generations. The problem arises in that we need to interact with the current generation to meet these responsibilities. How do we do this with the “Ikea Generation” which doesn’t seem to care about keeping Grandma’s good dishes because they can’t be put in the dishwasher? We should not lump the current generation into this category as there are many other charities that are supported, however, volunteerism in general is in decline over past generations.As an essential community service, should museum funding fall onto the municipal level of government? Most small museums in BC are supported 90% by local governments. We are not in this group. We depend heavily on the generosity of volunteers and apply for grants where ever we can find them. Most of our time and effort is spent trying to make certain we have enough funding to stay in operation. Unfortunately, our resources fall short to cover everything needing to be done to protect our artefacts and provide services to the community.

What can you do to help us squeak?

  1. Write a letter to your MP asking to rescind the museum cuts and adopt a new National Museum policy and/or sign the online petition at:
  2. Write a letter your MLA asking for more of the gaming funds to go to charities
  3. Speak to your local government representatives encouraging more support
  4. Consider us for a taxable donation and/or planned estate giving
  5. Join us – volunteer- we try to have fun while providing an essential community service.
  6. Please help me rant as it is no fun ranting alone!


*Excerpt taken from the Station Telegram newsletter for the Port Moody Station Museum. Winter 2006 Issue. Available at the museum.

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