Park House Museum facing challenges

 

By Karen Fallon

Council was asked to consider funding the curator’s position for Amherstburg’s Park House Museum, at their meeting held Oct 29.

The oldest known house in Essex County is “facing challenges to sustainability,” says Valerie Buckie curator of the Park House Museum, who outlined why the building is “worthy of continued municipal support.”

The Park House, moved from Detroit to Amherstburg in 1798 by its “Loyalists” owners, has been a warehouse owned by the Northwest Company, a shipping business, a doctor’s office, an antique store and a dwelling.

Today it stands restored to the mid-19th century and operates as a living museum.

The Amherstburg Historic Sites Association runs the museum. The not-for-profit group was formed to oversee its development and operation.

The mandate of the organization is to “collect, preserve and study the heritage of the Town of Amherstburg and its people.”

The only grant that covers operational cost for museums in Ontario is the provincial Community Museums Operating Grant that is allotted based on specified criteria including on how much a museum spends.

Acquiring grant funding has become steadily more difficult, says Buckie, with growing competition for funding dollars.

However, the museum does currently receive two annual grants for the running of the museum. These come from the town and the province.

“Today most grants only cover a portion of the operating costs and matching funds have to be found,” said Buckie.

The largest single financial challenge to the museum is the salary of the curator. This is said to provide no benefits, no pension and the gross bi-weekly wage is pegged at $900, says Buckie.

“Your worship and councilors, I am asking that you consider paying the curators salary instead of funding collections,” said Buckie. “It is my fear that the future may see the closing of this valuable asset to the Town of Amherstburg and the loss of an organization that is working to keep Amherstburg’s past alive for generations to come.”

Buckie asked that her request be considered during upcoming budget deliberations.

Councillor John Sutton says: “You are preaching to the converted here regarding the importance of the museum to Amherstburg. It is important to the arts and culture in our community and integral to the overall tourism aspect as well.”

The Amherstburg Rotary Club saved the Park House from demolition in 1972, and has been the museum’s biggest funder over the years.

But due to a decrease in revenue from bingos and the sale of water barrels, the club is not able to fund the museum to the same extent.

Councillor Carolyn Davies inquired if the museum has sought other funding sources. To which Buckie replied that a “Friends of Park House” has been recently established.

To date the group has taken in over $6,000 and is in the process of sending out letters to those who would be “sensitive to this issue.”

“What makes the museum precious on a community level is something different,” said Buckie. “It is what it houses, the community collection which contains thousands of items that tell the story of every day life in Amherstburg from its beginnings until present day.”

The museum offers educational programming for schools and the general public along with classes in tin smithing.

The museum is supported by the Questers and the Marsh Collection Society.

Council unanimously passed the motion to move Buckie’s request to the 2013 budget deliberations.

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