Spring 2021 update from the Chair of the Museum, Chris West.
Like our city, the country, and the whole world, the Marine Museum was set back on its heels by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But we adjusted and look forward to emerging from the pandemic relatively unscathed. Perhaps it was to our advantage that adversity has not been a stranger to us. Perhaps too, nothing could diminish our spirits, given the acquisition of our historic Dry Dock property in the summer of 2019. Perhaps we have exceptional staff and volunteers and members and donors and friends far and wide who made the difference. Let’s eschew the “perhaps”. Undoubtedly it was a measure of all these factors that contributed to the successes of 2020. Herewith some highlights.
A big priority in 2020 was fundraising to address the urgent repairs required before we can re-occupy 55 Ontario Street. You will recall that after lying vacant for three years, the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems were a shambles. We are extremely grateful that by just after the year’s close, friends and supporters had responded with donations of over $500,000, the amount we estimated for the repairs. Work on those repairs began early in the new year and in consequence we look forward to moving back into our historic premises this summer!
Through lockdowns and masking and social distancing the Museum continued to operate, improvising as needed. Virtual board meetings on Zoom? Got that. Ditto for committee meetings? Got that. Transitioning to virtual Nautical Nights talks? Got that. Ramping up a Museum-best array of social media content and programs? Got that. Delivering summer camp activities for kids virtually? Got that.
Partnership work continues to evolve and has led to a number of new projects and opportunities. In February we hosted a public information session to share enclosure plans for a potential museum ship. This project was undertaken by a terrific group of 4th year Queen's University Engineering students as part of their Capstone Project. While there is no news to share on the status of our Canadian Heritage application and potential SS Keewatin acquisition, this presentation offered great insight into the feasibility of such a project and the potential benefits for the preservation of cultural heritage. Meanwhile, our 2020 established partnerships with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Swim Drink Fish continue to develop. I'm delighted to share the SDF will once again be setting up their "Citizen Science" water quality testing lab at the Museum and in collaboration with the City, and we look forward to sharing developments over the course of the summer. And, COVID permitting, we will be launching a pilot Marine Museum Kingston Shipwrecks cruise series in partnership with Kingston Thousand Island Cruises this summer.
Very well, you may ask, but when is the Museum going to open at the Dry Dock site? If you live in Kingston and have been attentive, you may have noticed a sign at our 55 Ontario Street historic site that appeared earlier this year announcing: “The Lights are Coming Back On!” Well, they are indeed. Due to COVID, however, it’s a mug’s game predicting exactly when. If we are lucky, we should be able to announce a “soft” reopening (no brass bands and dignitaries, other details tbd) once Provincial restrictions allow for museums to reopen during Phase 3. Please bear with us, though, and stay tuned for updates. Whatever day it is, it will be a hugely meaningful one in the history of our Museum, and I know you will share with me in a profound sense of relief, gratitude and promise for the future.
Chair of the Board