Special meeting called to discuss future of Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

An historical stone from an old flour mill that lays in pieces outside the former Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin on Fourth Avenue is just the tip of the iceberg of problems facing the museum society responsible for the collection.

Most of the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts was moved to the Tourism Discovery Centre in June and July to make way for a new care facility on the Fourth Avenue site.

But the move has not gone as smoothly as the society had hoped.

Numerous concerns arising out of the move have prompted the museum society to call a special meeting of members and the public for this Thursday evening Sept. 28 to discuss, among other things, whether the museum society should fold.

The meeting takes place in City council chambers starting at 7 p.m.

According to a newsletter sent to members Friday, although the museum society and members have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the safety of the museum collection for current and future generations, the directors and executive director/curator have had no say in the how the artifacts were moved.

“This has been a crazy exercise, very frustrating,” said museum president George Atamanenko in an interview Friday.

He encourages museum society members and the public to attend the meeting and voice any concerns they may have about the future of the museum.

According to the newsletter the society is concerned about some of the protocols employed in moving the museum collection and about not knowing exactly where all of the artifacts are stored.

There are also concerns about the fate of 20 valuable display cases that were left behind in the former museum building that is now being renovated to accommodate an eight-bed care facility for people with mental health difficulties.

Museum staff and directors witnessed some of the display cases going into dumpsters, including two with plaques dedicated to local donors.

A tour of the building Friday evening with a construction worker on site revealed that some of the display cases had not yet been moved out of the building.

Warren Henderson who is working at the site for Kasper Development Corporation said the display cases have been a constant hindrance to the renovation project but they have tried to be as careful as they can in moving the cases around the building and out of their way during the renovation work.

Saturday morning some of the display cases were moved to an outdoor shelter where museum volunteers and staff were scrambling to find the resources to move them to a secure location.

The handling of the outdoor exhibits has also been a concern, a case in point being one of the stones from an old flour mill donated to the museum society.

Instead of being moved to a secure location the stone was taken apart and the pieces were left lying on the ground when workers put in a new water outlet.

Another mill stone, vintage plow, and metal object were also seen Friday propping up the Kasper Development Corporation signs in front of the building.

Atamanenko said the museum society is on record as needing to meet with City council very quickly to discuss their concerns and protocols for the museum’s future at the Tourism Discovery Centre.

In an interview Saturday afternoon Mayor Walt Cobb said the City had planned to set up a meeting between city council, the museum society and the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce in July to discuss the move before the wildfires hit the region and the meeting had to be postponed. However, he said such a discussion meeting will be set up very soon.

As a member of the museum society Cobb said he had not yet received the latest museum society newsletter indicating problems with the move or been given any prior indication that there were problems.

“If there are issues we need to know about them,” Cobb said. “We have to get things settled and start looking for a location for a new museum.”

Cobb said that he will be attending the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Vancouver this week but if he gets back in time from that meeting on Thursday he will attend the museum meeting.

The museum society newsletter points to a number of concerns with the TDC space which only allows for about five per cent of the museum’s collection to be displayed at a time.

“Given the extreme reduction in size of the displays, the Community Gaming operating grant may be reduced or denied as a result,” the newsletter states.

Although there will be some cost savings having the museum located at the TDC, the letter says the fee for service agreement with the City/Cariboo Regional District to operate the museum, along with admission fees and donations will not cover all of the museum’s expenses or salaries to staff the museum.

The museum also loses revenue earned in the past from the museum gift shop that can’t be located in the space since the TDC already has a gift shop.

There is also no room at the TDC to hold fundraising and social events such as the museum’s annual Christmas Tea and Bake Sale, the City’s birthday celebration and or the Cowboy Hall of Fame luncheon.

Living up to the expectations of the museum as the designated B.C. Cowboy Hall of Fame is also a problem as the museum society currently doesn’t have permission to hang hall of fame pictures on the walls, or display the museum’s extensive saddle collection.

There is also a concern that security at the TDC is not up to museum quality standards and that the museum is too small and too far out of the city centre to easily accommodate school and other group visits.

Wheel from an historic flour mill was taken apart and the pieces left on the ground to allow workers to put in a new water outlet. Gaeil Farrar photo
Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin volunteer June Eckert talks with construction worker Warren Henderson about moving the display cases and volunteered to help with the lifting, Gaeil Farrar photo
Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin curator William Adams (left) talks with construction worker Warren Henderson Friday evening about moving museum display cases from the former museum on Fourth Avenue to another dry and secure location. The cases were moved to an unsecured outdoor shelter on the property Saturday morning after which Adams and museum volunteer June Eckert worked to find manpower and equipment to have the cases moved to a secure location. Gaeil Farrar photo
In the foreground is a stone artifact outside the former Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin that was used to help stabilize a sign. The plow next to the stone was moved from under the window to the right of the scene while workers trimmed a rose bush. In the background is a stone wheel from an old flour mill that has cracks in it and will require special care to move. Gaeil Farrar photo
In front is an historic railway baggage trolley and in behind are various small and large artifacts belonging to the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. Gaeil Farrar photo
One of the large display cases the museum uses to display First Nations artifacts that volunteers were working Saturday to move to the new temporary museum in the Tourism Discovery Centre. Gaeil Farrar photo
Various community organizations donated funding for shelving units that have been left behind in the former museum on Fourth Avenue. Gaeil Farrar photo
Small display case to be moved. Gaeil Farrar photo

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