Year rewarding, challenging says museum administrator

  • May. 30, 2007 7:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–It has been a rewarding, but challenging year for the Haida Gwaii Museum said director Nathalie McFarlane at the annual general meeting held Sunday in Skidegate.
One challenge has been the lack of public presence at the museum for the past three years, she said. Due to all the construction work at the museum and the Haida Heritage Centre where the meeting was held, regular public programming has been set aside.
“We miss the public,” she said, but was pleased to note the museum would be open to the public starting July 2 this year and a big celebration will take place during Skidegate Days.
The most rewarding part of the last year, she said, was raising three historic totem poles in the new facility. She said the feast held in January brought the community in and gave everyone a chance to take ownership of the new buildings.
She had kudos for staff, including curator Nika Collison who has not only been intensely involved in completing the new exhibits for the museum and the entire Haida Heritage Centre, but has also been very involved in creating exhibits for other facilities.
Ms McFarlane said Ms Collison’s work with the National Museum of the American Indian, Seattle’s Burke Museum and others is important for the future of the Haida Gwaii Museum. Not only does the curator’s work bring in dollars to the museum, but hers and other community curators’ expertise ensures that new exhibits about Haida Gwaii are done with Haida input.
Ms McFarlane also thanked museum staffer Anne Wesley for being the “mover and shaker” at the society. Not only did she oversee the shifting of the collection on three separate occasions, but she keeps many details on track, says Ms McFarlane.
She also praised the board for sticking with the museum during the challenges of last year.
The board will face a few different challenges in the coming year as well. These include operating a facility that is double the size of the old museum. This year the board will finalize an agreement with the Haida Heritage Centre society covering the details of how the two societies will operate in the buildings. This includes how bills get paid, admissions, gift shop and more.
The museum must raise between $600,000 and $900,000 to pay for unexpected renovations needed in its old building.
Ms McFarlane said when the work began in that area rot was found in some of the posts. Since this part of the museum contains natural history and Gwaii Haanas displays, the archives and administrative offices, it is essential that the work is done in a timely manner.
When the budget was presented, treasurer Cathy Rigg noted the gift shop revenue, admission charges, and memberships were down last year. She expects these to increase in the next year.
The HG Museum reported a $13,000 deficit this year, but much of that is offset by grant money outstanding at the end of the year, says Ms Rigg.
In other news at the meeting, president Dean Nomura made special mention of board vice-president Pearle Pearson and board member Monique Brown for all their volunteer hours. He also thanked a variety of donors including George MacDonald who donated 5,000 digitized historical photographs of Haida villages and people, Sandra Price for $15,000 to establish an endowment to support Haida button blanket-making, Laverne Davies for a collection of carved gold and silver jewelery by contemporary Haida artists and several other important gifts.
Mr. Nomura also announced this will be his last year on the board. After 17 years, he will be stepping down in the near future.
Other changes to the board include a new Queen Charlotte representative, Leslie Johnson and a new Skidegate representative, Irene Mills.
Ms Mills is replacing Billy Stevens, a long-serving board member who passed away earlier this year. The board and staff, not to mention the rest of the community, sorely miss his valuable presence.
Two positions representing Old Massett remain open.

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