55 Ontario Street, Kingston, Ontario K7L 2Y2
From City Hall - 7 minutes walking
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So what is Plan B? And was there a Plan A?
First things first, yes, there was a Plan A.
The first and best option for the Museum, and a path pursued vigorously, was to find a way to remain at the historic dry dock facility. This involved working at varying times with the Federal government, City staff and Council members and, of course, the new private property owner. However, unfortunately, following the sale of the property by the Federal government, remaining at 55 Ontario Street has proven not economically feasible. Understandably, the landlord wants to earn revenue from his property and incurs ongoing costs to maintain it. That said, the Museum is simply not equipped to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars per year that is attributable to just rent.
The Museum has been directed to vacate the property by Tuesday, August 23, 2016.
This brings us to Plan B. It’s ambitious, but the alternative is Plan C and we don’t want that.
In 2014 the Board of the Museum passed Terms of Reference for an ad hoc committee tasked with planning for a potential move of the Museum. This is no small task.
Throughout its forty-plus year history at 55 Ontario Street the Museum has amassed a significant collection, both in terms of sheer size and, more important, prestige. The collection tells not just the history of the Great Lakes, but the story of the evolution of Canada and Kingston’s role within it.
Staff and volunteers prepare several of the 50,000 ship plans for storage in the empty library.
Designated a Class A museological institution, the Museum holds designated Canadian Cultural Property and enjoys the rights and responsibilities that follow. Indeed, much of the public sector funding that supports the Museum (about a third of its approximately $300,000 annual budget), is tied directly to the Museum’s ongoing employment of a curator and its ability to display and engage the community with the collection. Moreover, that community engagement itself accounts for the other two-thirds of revenue (be it tourist/visitor revenue at a third or combined membership sales and donations at a third). Visit http://marmuseum.ca/index.php/about-us/documents to see the last three years audited financial statement for the Museum.
The difficult task of Plan B is planning for a move in such a way that maintains the public’s connection to the collection and therefore the Museum’s continued operational status and eligibility for core government funding, while also allowing for a new permanent home of the type that has housed the Museum for the past forty-plus years. Certainly exciting things are happening in Kingston with the re-visioning of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour and the Kinston Penitentiary site. Proper long-term planning takes time and there is not a door-to-door move site available to the Museum.
Library books ready to be transported to storage.
In simplest terms, Plan B calls for three complementary activities:
•the move of selected artefacts to small, temporary locations for public display, thereby maintaining the moral and legal status of the Museum;
•storing the remainder of the collections (archival, bibliographic and artefacts less the Alexander Henry) temporarily until a new site is acquired; and
•disposal of the Alexander Henry.
In moving to a small-scale storefront, Plan B calls for the continued employment of a curator to engage with the community and meet the mission of the Museum in the interim period, while also maintaining core requirements of government granting institutions. Of assistance, the Museum recently received a nod of approval from the Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC) for a phased-in grant of $188,175 to develop a virtual exhibit titled Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes. This is really exciting stuff – a virtual exhibit that allows the Museum to continue its mission and community outreach through a virtual medium while it works to find a new home.
Certainly the greatest challenge facing the Museum is disposal of the Museum Ship Alexander Henry. The ship has been a landmark on the Kingston waterfront since 1985 and many thousands of visitors have toured the ship and taken photographs standing before her bow. However, with the loss of 55 Ontario Street, the Alexander Henry is a ship without a home port. The costs involved in disposing of the ship in an environmentally responsible manner represent an existential threat to the Museum. That said, with financial support from the community and City of Kingston, the Museum can overcome this challenge. Keep an eye out for our next update, which will expand on the issue of the Alexander Henry.
We aren’t at Plan C yet, but suffice it to say that, if the Museum cannot meet its financial obligations, both in terms of moving and storing the collection and disposing of the Alexander Henry, there is not a future for the Museum or its unique and important collection. This would be a sad, sad day for a community that bills itself as the city “where history and innovation thrive”. But, as we said, we’re not there yet.
The Museum has established a Plan B fund to assist with carrying out the move. We can only do it with your financial assistance and contributions. As you know, the Museum is a registered charity and donations will be processed in the normal course. Please call the Museum at 613-542-2261 to make a donation by phone, drop by or mail a cheque to 55 Ontario Street, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 2Y2 or donate online at www.marmuseum.ca/index.php/donating.
Watch and follow Marine Museum News for further updates on Plan B as we move forward.
As noted above, our next brief will be a communication about the Alexander Henry.
Thanks to Ian Longo, you can now tour the Marine Museum virtually. Click here, and enjoy.
The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston was founded in 1975. Located on 55 Ontario St. at the only federally built dry dock on the Great Lakes, the Marine Museum houses the original pumping station and steam engines built in 1891.
The Museum has on display a wide ranging collection of marine artifacts and exhibits, a significant fine art collection, and is home to the Gordon C. Shaw Study Centre, and Audrey Rushbrook Memorial Library. Current exhibits highlight the growth of ship building and shipping technologies, the history of boat building, the life of the sailor, as well as regional Kingston's maritime history and our place on the Great Lakes. The recently opened Eco Gallery focuses on environmental issues/successes related to the Great Lakes.
The Museum Ship Alexander Henry was built in 1959. A former buoy tender and light icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard, the Alexander Henry is a fine example of shipbuilding from the last century. With its twenty ton crane, block and tackle, hydraulic ram and other functional machinery, visiting students can learn first hand about this purpose built structure, and about ice breaking in Canadian waters. The ship is available for tours from May - October, weather permitting.
In The News: Marine Museum of The Great Lakes (Kingston, Ontario) - by Alex Binkley, Canadian Sailings Magazine