Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CATHERINE HENNESSEY: New direction for museum

As published in The Guardian, Nov 2, 2016

Let us not move too fast; ponder together what is best, how to proceed

Founders Hall is now up for sale. It has been touted as a possible site for a new provincial museum.

Yes, it is true we are the only province without a provincial museum and we have been on the lookout for one since 1880.
We took steps in 1964 with the memorial to the Fathers of Confederation and again in 1973, creating a network of heritage sites under the wing of the new P.E.I. Heritage Foundation.
Then in 2001, Founders Hall took shape in a very carefully restored railway building, although one has to admit the exhibits were far more for tourists than for Islanders.
The point I am trying to make is that we have done something, but as we have done things, the sector has changed and we would have been unfair to ourselves if we built - as we would have - had we moved for the ‘real thing’ on those past occasions.
To build for the 2020s we must pause and ask what exactly should be built. No doubt some of you have visited the new Halifax Library or The Rooms in St. John’s. Very interesting places that make me think.
Before we move too fast, let us contemplate a direction – one that fits our needs and that we can afford, both as a capital exercise and an apportioned one.
And before we go too far, should heritage foundation and museums, natural history groups, the library and archivists all be sitting down together and talking about it – and then they should invite others in to join them.
For one thing, just take a look at how, at both the Halifax Library and St. John’s – and many other places for that matter - are dominated by a bay of computers that could answer the common needs of all.
Please, please let us not move too fast and let us ponder together what is best for us and how we should proceed.
One roof sounds good to me. Leadership is essential.
 - Catherine Hennessey, Charlottetown’s best-known heritage activist, has been working to preserve and protect the city's historical distinctiveness for many years

Monday, October 24, 2016

Greens to renew museum support

As published in The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2016

EDITOR: I was delighted to see your recent editorial promoting the idea of using Founder’s Hall as a potential location for a provincial museum. As the only province without a museum, we are missing out, as your editorial says, not only on major tourism opportunities, but more importantly, ongoing opportunities for all Islanders, and in particularly our children, to learn more about P.E.I.’s fascinating heritage.
Whether it is cultural, geological, artistic or ecological, we have a uniquely rich and varied history which deserves to be on permanent display, helping to strengthen Islanders' sense of identity, as well as knowledge about our past.
It was Premier Campbell who set up the P.E.I. Heritage Foundation, and it would be a nice symmetry and a fitting tribute, if our current Premier - who literally wrote the book on Alex Campbell - would take this opportunity to leave a legacy worthy of their shared appreciation of Island history.
I made a statement in our Legislature last year supporting the establishment of a museum on P.E.I., and bolstered in part by The Guardian’s enthusiasm, look forward to bringing this up again when the House opens next month.
Peter Bevan-Baker,
Leader, Island Green Party 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

EDITORIAL: Founders Hall offers opening for museum

As published in The Guardian, Oct 20, 2016

Founders Hall in Charlottetown is now up for sale.

Memo to the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC): Delay a plan to donate remaining historical displays inside Founders Hall to Confederation Centre and Heritage P.E.I. There might be life yet for the building and items relating to Charlottetown’s 1864 Confederation Conference.
The building on the Charlottetown waterfront - mothballed since last fall although several retail tenants did operate there this summer - is now for sale.
Isn’t this an opportunity to finally move forward on a long ignored and much needed provincial museum for Prince Edward Island? The location is superb. The building is historic. And the need is great.
Just over a year ago, Rosemary Curley, the president of Nature P.E.I., came out swinging in a guest opinion in The Guardian to argue for a provincial museum. She wanted the province to tap into fresh infrastructure funds being promised by the then-new federal Liberal government.
Ms. Curley was hoping for a positive decision on a provincial legacy project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017. And what better way to proceed than on a human and natural history museum? We are the only province without one.
Sadly, her plea has fallen on deaf ears.
There has been a general underwhelming interest in celebrating the sesquicentennial of Canada’s founding, especially in the cradle of Confederation and despite our own successful 150th celebrations in 2014.
The lure of federal infrastructure money saw the province recently commit to a massive $65 million Cornwall bypass project. Is the Cornwall bypass going to be the provincial legacy for 2017?
The surge in cruise ship and tourist traffic in recent years has failed to pay dividends at Founders Hall. Why? The waterfront has been booming, especially since 2014 when the Confederation Landing Park hosted numerous events. But tourists and Islanders seem to have skipped Founders Hall.Founders Hall opened in 2001 after the former rail car shop was converted into an attraction saluting our founding fathers. It did have successful early years but tourism numbers have fallen. The decline is blamed on outdated displays that didn't prove popular in the digital age. Modern interactive exhibits might have drawn more visitors but CADC seemed to have quickly given up on this facility.
CADC wants the private sector to try something else - to develop the property as a multi-purpose retail venue to bring people to the waterfront. The corporation acknowledges its initial investment did pay off and the building was a significant player in the rejuvenation of the eastern end of the city. So why did its support for Founders Hall come to an abrupt end?
P.E.I. was left without a permanent legacy for 2014, despite the enormous benefits to the city and province from the Confederation Centre national memorial built for our 1964 celebrations. Now it appears the same fate is imminent for 2017.
Before the rush continues to divest this potential treasure, someone must step forward and explore the museum options for Founders Hall before it becomes another condo development obscuring the waterfront.
There is need for vision.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Former PEI Hospital ideal for museum

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian) Published on January 14, 2016

I have written several times regarding this matter. I am pleased to read there are still other persons deeply interested in the building of a Prince Edward Island Museum.

The project has been over studied and promised for years. Now is the time to build it in time to commemorate the 150th birthday of Canada.

The ideal location would be the grounds where the former Prince Edward Island Hospital was built and is no longer in use. It could be a beautiful area with plenty of green space and good parking facilities. Also, it would be back to back with our beautiful Fanningbank. One would compliment the other in many ways.

Indeed a “Golden Opportunity” as another writer has stated.

I appeal to all Islanders to encourage the government of Prince Edward Island to take action on this long overdue project and finally highlight our very precious legacy.

Helen M. MacPhail,

Clyde River

P.E.I.'s provincial museum belongs at the Experimental Farm Grounds

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian) Published on January 14, 2016

The proposed provincial museum should be located on the Experimental Farm Grounds bounded by Mt. Edward, Allen and University to house the many artifacts that we can gather from Island history in the past.

Paul H. Jenkins,


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Montague makes pitch for new provincial museum

Steve Sharratt

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A timely call for long-overdue P.E.I. museum

Editorial published by The Guardian on December 30, 2015

© CBC photo
 Rosemary Curley

More than 13 months ago, then-Premier Robert Ghiz said a provincial museum was not an immediate priority for his government but hoped it would become a legacy project when Canada celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017. The museum was high on the list for P.E.I.’s sesquicentennial in 2014 but it failed to materialize.

In mid-November, 2014, the speech from the throne suggested the province was exploring options on a possible museum project. It was a promise first made by the Liberals during the 2007 election campaign which brought them to power and repeated again in 2008. It was pushed to the background for much of the following six years until it emerged in the throne speech in November 2014. A week later Mr. Ghiz announced he was stepping down as premier and the museum idea went out the door with him.

It’s impossible to speculate that if Mr. Ghiz had remained premier, he might have championed the museum and action would now be underway to fund, design and construct this vital missing piece of our provincial infrastructure.

Time is already running out since the start of 2016 is mere hours away. Projects for 2017’s celebrations have rarely been publicly discussed nationally or provincially.

The province decided the 2014 P.E.I. celebrations were going to be spread out across the Island, with a focus on a celebration zone on the Charlottetown waterfront while various smaller events across the Island received support and improvements. Critics saw it as a wasted opportunity when upwards of $29 million in public and private sponsorship money was in play. Yet when the party ended, there was little left but the cleanup.

To be fair, there was a huge boost in tourism during 2014 which fortunately carried over into this year with another record-breaking season. The spinoffs from the past two big tourism years benefit the entire province, but where is our permanent legacy? Could not the two have successfully co-existed?

In 1964 we were endowed with the national memorial to the Fathers of Confederation — the Confederation Centre of the Arts — the heartbeat of the city for the past 50 years.

The president of Nature P.E.I., Rosemary Curley, came out publicly this week in a guest opinion to The Guardian to put forward a case for the museum. She wants the province to tap into infrastructure funds when they are doled out early in the new year. She wants action now and maybe something might actually happen in time for the 150th national anniversary of Confederation.

There has been an uneasy quiet about plans for 2017 — both nationally and provincially. There is a feeling that these infrastructure dollars being announced early in 2016 might be our best and only chance to commemorate the 150th birthday of Canada on a major scale.

Ms. Curley ripped past governments for shirking their responsibility and is calling out the province to commit part of the promised federal infrastructure dollars to building a human and natural history museum. We are the only province without one.

 Charlottetown is again extending feelers for a new sports and entertainment civic centre. Is there enough money for both projects, or even one?

The museum proposal was raised in the recent fall sitting of the legislature but received scant attention from government, opposition or media. It was left to Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker to speak to the issue in a statement to the legislative assembly that now might be the time for Islanders to begin to dream about a museum project.

Ms. Curley thanked Mr. Bevan-Baker for recognizing this golden opportunity to develop a museum. She is also imploring the province to move ahead on this project now that there is an interest at the federal level in funding joint projects that serve the needs of Canadians in the area of social infrastructure.

The needs are many on P.E.I. but few people can argue against this long-overdue and long-promised provincial museum.