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Montague searching for ways to ensure healthy future for province’s oldest museum

Coun. Daphne Griffin, left, looks over some files next to Coun. Debbie Johnston during Montague’s monthly council meeting Monday night. Griffin questioned whether council should make a long-term commitment to the Garden of the Gulf Museum with an upcoming election, while Johnston felt there needs to be a discussion on ways to draw more visitors to the museum.
Coun. Daphne Griffin, left, looks over some files next to Coun. Debbie Johnston during Montague’s monthly council meeting Monday night. Griffin questioned whether council should make a long-term commitment to the Garden of the Gulf Museum with an upcoming election, while Johnston felt there needs to be a discussion on ways to draw more visitors to the museum. - Mitch MacDonald

MONTAGUE, P.E.I. - Montague council wants to make sure the town’s museum doesn’t become history.

A request for the town to make a long-term commitment to the museum sparked a broader discussion on the building’s future during Monday’s committee of council meeting, with councillors deciding to meet again on the issue before voting on it.

While the town provides about $35,000 a year to the museum for maintenance and operations, the building is in need of repairs and has only attracted between 404 and 518 paying customers annually over the last four years.

Those numbers do not include school classes and children, who get free admission.

Coun. Debbie Johnston said the town must look at ways to draw more people into the building, which is owned by the town.

“I’m not saying I don’t want to see it as a museum… but how do we attract more people,” said Johnston. “There is taxpayer money going into it every year, and I think there needs to be a discussion on how we can get some more income from the museum.”

The museum’s board of directors is trying to secure funding for $150,000 in improvements, which would include first-floor insulation and walls, updated windows with UV filters and heat pumps.

At least one potential funder has requested the museum demonstrate the project would result in a long-term entity that would have an impact on the community, which led to the request for a commitment from council.

Most of council was in agreement that while the museum could remain in the building long-term, whether the same level of funding could be guaranteed every year was another question.

Some questioned whether council should even make the commitment while facing the possibility of amalgamation.

Coun. Daphne Griffin said an upcoming municipal election could result in a completely new council and there would be a new council structure if the town is amalgamated.

“I’m not against the request, but I don’t know how we can commit to that when we may not be here (after the fall),” she said.

Coun. Jim Bagnall had similar concerns.

“I have no problem committing the building to the museum. I have a problem committing $35,000 that may not be under our control anymore,” said Bagnall. “I do feel it’s a lot of money we’re putting out for very few people… There has to be a way to attract more people to the facility.”
Bagnall said council doesn’t know what funding is available from year-to-year until the budget process.

“If we commit that type of money for that long of a time, there may be other things we should be doing that we’re not,” he said.

Council will also be voting next month to approve a new board of directors to the museum after some recent recruitment success.

Several councilors said they hoped new members may have some solutions for the museum.

Mayor Richard Collins congratulated new board members.

“It’s the oldest museum in the province of Prince Edward Island,” said Collins. “We have a brand new board, some brand new ideas…. Lets hope that this board jumps on a new beginning.”

Board of directors

Montague council will vote during next month’s meeting to accept the following board for the Garden of the Gulf Museum.

Debbie Davis – chairwoman
Frank Szentmiklossy – treasurer
Robert Harding – secretary
Ashley Logan
Len Buell
Connie Spencer
Edgar Dewar
Kathleen MacMillan
Kenny MacKinnon

Sally Russel
Sandra Mackay
Tom Rath
Wayne Spin


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