CANADIAN MUSEUM ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Toronto, March 25-28, 2009
Heritage Policy Development in the Regions
Panelists: Jerry Dyck (Nfld), Bill Greenlaw (NS), Anne Hayward (Alta), Michel Perron (Qué)
Several provinces have been working on policies and strategic documents. This session provided an overview of these policies, and asked the panelists for insight based on their experiences.
Anne reported that Alberta’s policy has a provincial scope, as well as a focus on Edmonton and Calgary as the two major centres. Introduced in January 2008, it recognizes the shift in tourism from an economic to cultural focus. It creates links with businesses, schools, and outlines the social benefits of heritage.
Newfoundland & Labrador
This government document is all-inclusive and outlines the government support on heritage in the broadest sense. It is applicable to community museums, and contains strategic directions for the following topics: Aboriginal control over programs, creative education, preserving tangible cultural heritage, safeguarding intangible heritage, a provincial historic commemoration program. What is missing is the inclusion of natural history, but it is hoped that this will be incorporated into the document at a later date. The policy is currently being referred as government is in the process of creating a heritage act.
Bill started by saying that he has been floored by the power of the document (A Heritage Strategy for Nova Scotia 2008 - 2013), as he is no longer having to explain the relevancy of heritage to cabinet as they have truly taken ownership of the government strategy. 15 departments were engaged during the development process, and two of the noteworthy pieces are the recommendations to review the Nova Scotia Museum system and funding processes.
Michel reported that a museum policy has been developed using the broad sense of the word; an all-encompassing document that can be applied to all sites. It is based on a principal of knowledge, and incorporates an evaluation system that can be compared to CMAP. 195 sites fall under this system, each of them receiving 30% of their operating budget.
After this initial review, the panelists were asked the following questions:
1. Has this policy development resulted in funding improvements or a shift in priorities?
Alta. - The Alberta ministry funds sites both directly and through foundations.
Since 2002 funding has gradually increased to 2 million, which allows for
the provision of direct support to staff and operating funds.
Nfld. - There has been a 3-4 fold increase in funding in recognition of increased need in/by communities. Sustainable funding is a priority, and it is hoped that long-term commitments will be made to meet the need of enhancing professional capacity.
NS. - This is the first time that heritage has been mentioned for an increase in the budget. For the Nova Scotia Museum budget this means an increase of 35%, which has allowed the NSM to provide seasonal staff with long-overdue raises. The government also gave a one-time gift of $10,000 to CMAP sites.
Qué. - 75% of the annual budget goes to provincial sites, with the remainder divided among the smaller museums. For the past 3 years substantial funding has been provided for exhibit refreshment, and a new business sponsorship program has been developed that is being called the Culture Placement Program.
2. How will the current economy affect museums?
Alta. - Government is afraid to cut funding to the core of the community. In all likelihood people will drastically cut back on their spending and it is imperative that museums remain front and centre to take advantage of this, focusing on building their local community and audience.
Nfld. - We are cautiously optimistic of an increase from the government since there is a precedent for that, but expect to see a big decrease in corporate and business funding. A plan is being developed to help access corporate funding.
NS. - With museums being such a focal point and core of communities, we are not expecting any cutbacks, but should see the status quo with funding.
Qué. - There is a great risk of losing private sponsorships from companies, and the seasonal and smaller sites are very fragile. It would not be a surprise to see some museums close their doors.
3. How is your attendance?
Alta. - Since people are staying so much closer to home we hope to see an increase in local visitors and grow that community.
Nfld. - There is a big need to build local audiences, especially in the outlying communities.
NS. - It is important to “do it for ourselves” first, increasing free visits to build the local audience.
Qué. - Visitor statistics haven’t changed, and are resting around 12.5 million.
4. What do you want to see in a federal museum policy?
Alta. - Pay attention to the nation, not just national museums.
Nfld. - We need programs to recognize the variety in the regions, sites etc. Small sites need to be included.
NS. - There should be partnership with the provincial governments in order to facilitate better coordination.
Qué. - It is very important to have political buy-in; the federal policy should complement policies at the provincial level.
5. What are the top 3 things that your provincial heritage minister needs to do?
Alta. - 1- Political leadership and support for the arts opens doors and has the
potential to enhance social well-being.
2- Fund traveling exhibits.
3- Big museums are good magnets, but don’t forget about the small
Nfld. - 1- A new policy means progress, but we can’t rest on our laurels.
2- The sustainability issues need to be recognized and addressed.
3- Support must be given to both provincial sites and the small community sites.
NS. - 1- The Heritage Minister has the opportunity to leave a legacy on how people see Nova Scotia for generations to come.
2- Invest in interpretive renewal.
Qué. - 1- Core, operational funding is needed.
2- Museum workers need to be able to access professional development opportunities.
3- The disappearance of federal programs is creating a big gap. We need other funding from a variety of sources.