The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum is looking expand but first needs financial assistance from the town, curator Sarah Kaufman says.
Kaufman asked the audit and finance committee for a $700,000 donation over four years last week. The committee approved the request in principle but sent it to staff for review to determine how much the town can afford to donate.
The museum owns the land behind Memorial Hall and plans on putting a new building there that’s roughly the same size as Memorial Hall, the current main building of the museum.
The museum has its eyes set on a federal grant to help with construction.
The Canada Cultural Spaces Fund would cover 50 per cent of the building's costs, should the museum receive it.
Estimates for the project are around $10 million. Through its own fundraising program, the museum has already raised nearly $800,000, Kaufman said.
But it needs $1.7 million, or 17 per cent of the project cost committed in order to apply, she said.
Kaufman approached town council on Sept. 20 asking for financial assistance in order to make the grant happen.
“The town’s commitment could help us solidify support from the federal government,” she said.
Coun. Gary Burroughs agreed.
“For all the organizations within our community, showing support by the town is critical for them to go out and get support from both the provincial and federal government,” Burroughs said.
“You’ve done some unbelievable things throughout COVID and I believe that we need to show our support in order for you to go and get other grants.”
Kaufman said the $700,000 figure is tied to the museum's large collection of municipal documents and the space being revamped and redeveloped to hold more.
And the museum is inundated with town documents.
“Over 50 per cent of our collection is municipal documents,” Kaufman said in an interview.
It has more than 30,000 documents ranging throughout the town’s history and Kaufman said more are on the way.
The museum administers research requests relating to all town documents and plans on digitizing all the documents in the future.
With the physical expansion also comes the expansion of exhibit and research opportunities.
“(The new building) will have a temporary exhibit gallery, a multi-purpose room that is essentially a community space where we could do different programming — kids programming, seniors programming and any community groups could rent out the space as well,” Kaufman told The Lake Report.
The museum already does 80 programs a year but is limited due to space constraints. More rooms means more events and exhibits can happen simultaneously.
Kaufman said there would be a focus on children's programs such as events over March break, on PD days and after-school programs.
“The bottom floor will have collections storage, more collection storage because we’ve been collecting since 1896,” she said with a laugh.
Renovations will also be made to the facility's existing buildings to make them more accessible by installing elevators. A dedicated research room will also be created, Kaufman said.
Kaufman said the museum wants to become the definitive location for interacting with NOTL’s history.
“No matter where anyone lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we cover the history, in all the villages,” she said.
“The one thing that unites all of Niagara-on-the-Lake is that love of heritage and heritage preservation. We see this transformation as helping to solidify our position as the heritage centre for the community.”
The expansion would also allow the museum to have more representations of Black and Indigenous people’s history in its exhibits, Kaufman said.
“We really want to become that destination museum that all residents are proud of. This is their museum.”
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report