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Saturday, November 26, 2022
NOTL Museum expanding, asks town for budget increase

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum has long been underfunded and it is now asking for a “final major increase” in the town’s 2020 budget, the museum’s curator told council’s the committee of the whole meeting Monday.

Sarah Kaufman made two presentations to councillors. She first asked for a letter of support for the museum’s renovation project and then made a request for more money in 2020.

The museum hasn’t expanded since the 1970s and the renovation project is “long overdue,” Kaufman said.

The $8-million project will make the museum fully accessible, with an elevator and universal bathroom, add community space and research space, will increase square footage to 18,000 from the existing 10,000.

The project is shovel-ready, Kaufman said, asking town councillors for a letter of support for a Canada Infrastructure Grant.

“This grant could provide, approximately, up to 73 per cent of the build cost and to a non-profit, like ourselves, this grant is crucial,” she said.

Councillors approved Kaufman’s request for the letter of support.

Kaufman then made her pitch for more money from the town, which ultimately councillors hedged on. 

They voted to defer any decision to the 2020 budget deliberation talks. That recommendation will be voted on at the next council meeting on Nov. 11.

In her presentation, Kaufman described the role of the museum, listed events it has organized and mentioned some of its future projects.

One of their new projects is Tiny Museum, a mobile museum on wheels that will go to schools and community events. The construction is in progress and the educational program is expected to launch next year. The project has also received a $125,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

In 2016, the museum board has found the museum has received the least amount of funding out of all community museums despite being located in the most heritage-minded and historically significant community.

For the 2020 budget, Kaufman has asked for operational funding in the amount of $264,936.

“This may seem like quite a large request. However, this is the museum’s final push for more sustainable funding from the municipality,” Kaufman told councillors.

In 2019, the museum received $209,790, while in 2018, council allocated $158,535 to the museum.

Between 2006 and until 2016, the town’s contribution to the museum only increased to $99,000 from $85,000. That means over a 10-year period, the museum on average received an annual increase of $1,400 or 0.02 per cent, Kaufman said.

If the town approves her request, the money will support general operation and maintenance of the museum and its heritage buildings, marketing events and programs, benchmark funding, non-discretionary expenses and staffing to maintain the collection and provide better programming, Kaufman told councillors.

Without funding, the museum will see a reduction in programming, in exhibition and conservation of collection funds and will have to cut back on its marketing efforts, she said.

“The research and collection at the museum is one of the most valuable heritage assets of the community and must be protected. Without the collection, our hardworking researchers, staff and volunteers, the distinct heritage landscape of Niagara-on-the-Lake may not have survived the change of time,” Kaufman said.