Editorial — March 26, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Museums will never appeal to everyone.

While one person can be enraptured by getting a closer look at what came before, the next person just sees a bunch of dusty old things.

That’s the rub for museums with big dreams.

We’re lucky in this city that our largest museum, the Prince Albert Historical Museum that is housed in the old firehall at Central Avenue and River Street, is staffed by a dedicated corps of volunteers to supplement paid staff.

The museum has a quirky combination of amazing local artifacts side by side with items like German war souvenirs. For anyone with an eye for history, it’s a compelling place to spend an hour or two.

While I’m sure they could use a few extra dollars, they are unlikely to ever get themselves in big financial trouble.

A story by the Canadian Press that circulated on Tuesday suggests that the Canadian Museum of History isn’t doing quite as well.

Perhaps better known by its former name, the Museum of Civilization, it was renamed in 2012 by the federal Conservatives. The museum, which is located across the river from Parliament in Ottawa, also includes the Canadian War Museum under its corporate wing.

Apparently living in Prince Albert -- a community partially defined by its amazing generosity -- has tainted how we view the national museum’s fundraising efforts.

If you can imagine, the national facility has a lofty goal of raising $20,000 in 2017. It may be only a mild exaggeration to say that some local charities have that in their couch cushions.

The national museum’s lack of traction in gaining donors is puzzling. It draws more than a million visitors a year yet only received money from 530 people last year.

The Canadian Museum of History and Canadian War Museum spent about $92 million last year, the Canadian Press reported, with a deficit of $3 million in 2012-13.

All of this is coming out as the beautiful Canadian Museum For Civil Rights is preparing to open one province to the east.

The Winnipeg facility is scheduled to open in September. There’s little doubt that will be a massive draw, at least initially.

The $351-million project, which was a partnership between the federal, provincial and municipal governments, along with The Forks North Portage Partnership and the private sector, is an architectural marvel that will draw a great deal of attention.

When a new facility like the Museum For Human Rights opens, it’s going to draw people because it’s new. What’s a little less certain is what will draw people in the year 2037 when the museum is a familiar part of Winnipeg and Canada’s landscape.

The very subject matter it deals with promises to keep it in the news for a long time, perhaps quite often for the wrong reasons. After all one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

We’ll have to hope that’s enough to keep people paying to get in.

It’s not an easy niche to open in and stay viable; just ask the folks in Ottawa.

We’ll have to hope that the new museum in Winnipeg brings out a little of that Prince Albert generosity in its visitors.

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

 

Organizations: Prince Albert, Canadian Press, Prince Albert Historical Museum Museum of Civilization Conservatives Canadian Museum of History and Canadian War Museum Canadian Museum For Civil Rights The Forks North Portage Partnership Museum For Human Rights Daily Herald

Geographic location: Ottawa, Central Avenue, River Street Winnipeg Canada

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