Museum space crunch still unresolved

Staff at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery are regrouping after their $240,000 request to address the museum’s space crunch was refused by city council.

Staff at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery are regrouping after their $240,000 request to address the museum’s space crunch was refused by city council.

Lorna Johnson, MAG executive director, said they were not entirely surprised that council turned them down.

“Given some of the smaller requests that were refused, it wasn’t really surprising,” said Johnson. “But we wanted to put the concept on the table so we can begin discussion about it.”

Council reasoned that it was premature to make a decision for the storage needs of the museum collection without seeing the overall broader strategy that would include the city archives and records.

The MAG, which has been struggling with a space crunch, had requested $240,000 from the city to hire two additional staff who would work on digitizing the complete collection and to lease storage space.

Johnson said they are now looking at alternatives to deal with the problem but without funding it will slow things down.

“We have received some funding from the Alberta Museums Association to begin the process so we will seek other funding possibilities and continue to talk with council and the city,” said Johnson. “There may be that there is storage space somewhere in the city that we wouldn’t have to lease.”

She said they will continue to digitize the collection but it is challenging because of the “bursting at the seams” conditions.

Last year, the museum worked with the city on a feasibility study for a building built by the city to house the records management, the archives and provide some storage for the museum.

Johnson said what came out of the study was a facility that would have been able to store about 30 per cent of the museum’s collection in addition to the city’s record management and archives.

Johnson said it was ultimately decided this would not address the museum’s needs. The report has not come to council for consideration.

“That makes our situation worse instead of better because then we would have had to operate out of two sites,” said Johnson.

“That would have created staffing challenges right away. It wasn’t the right solution for us.”

Councillors Frank Wong and Paul Harris unsuccessfully argued for council to float $50,000 to the museum to help with staffing to work on the digitalizing during the operating budget deliberations.

“During the council meeting there was talk of deaccessioning,” said Johnson.

“That may be one solution but we’re not ready to take that step yet by any means. Until we fully understand what all we have and how it all fits together, that’s a long way off in the process.”

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