Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society runs a museum that was established to display the heritage of the "no-longer towns" of Michel and Natal, and the Elk Valley Area. Photo Submitted/Monica Beranek, Artifact Curator

Sparwood Museum requests a leg up to stay open full-time

The museum is volunteer-run, but needs a full-time employee to be able to snag much-needed grants

The Sparwood Museum has big plans for the future, but many of those plans may only be attainable if it secures itself funding for a full-time employee.

President of the Michel Natal Sparwood Historical Society, Joanne Wilton appeared before the district council on Tuesday April 6 to request financial assistance equivalent to the wage of a full-time staffer, so that the museum could stay open full-time and capture more opportunities in grant funding going forward.

“It’s become increasingly more difficult to operate the museum on a volunteer-only basis,” said Wilton.

The problem, she explained, was that by not being open full time the museum did not quality for grants that would allow it to enrich its offering to the wider community and visitors. By having a full-time employee, many doors would be opened – including the potential for ongoing operational grants from other sources, effectively kick-starting the museum’s ability to support itself.

Wilton said she wasn’t a fan of coming to the district to request funding, but said there were limited options without a leg up.

$49,000 annually was requested, and Wilton said that a fully-open museum had the potential to create revenue-generating opportunities in itself, as the museum was ideally located right next to the Sparwood Titan truck.

Mayor David Wilks said he was open to the idea, and requested a report from staff to come back to council on options. He said he considered the museum an extremely important asset to the community, so he would give the request due consideration. Questions from council were on revenue-generation, and no opposition was voiced. A report will come back to council for discussion at the next meeting in late April.

The museum currently receives in-kind support from the district to operate, as the building it occupies is owned by the district.

In response to the pandemic, the museum has evolved to find new ways to reach people.

Wilton said that the museum had received a $10,000 grant from the RDEK to develop an app with the company ‘On This Spot’ which allows visitors to go on self-guided tours of communities in B.C.

The museum was also in the process of developing educational ‘suitcases’ that could be lent out to schools in the district so students could learn more about the history of the area.

“With COVID being so challenging, we’re thinking we need to take the museum outside of the four walls,” said Wilton.

The education suitcases – which were already part of the historical society’s wider outreach strategy – are hoped to be ready by September.

The museum is developing three suitcases – one on the story of Michel-Natal-Middletown, one on Sparwood and how the community came to be, and one on underground mining.

The Sparwood ‘On This Spot’ app should be ready by June-July, with 15 sites around town earmarked by the society as ideal additions.

READ MORE: Historic Hosmer Mine Site set to undergo revitalization

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