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Didsbury Museum remains an important community asset

Historical society's president emphasizes importance of volunteers and fundraising during presentation to council
MVT didsbury museum side
Didsbury Museum visitor traffic has been down a bit so far in 2021, which did not surprise officials as it was closed to the public from March 17 to June 15 due to COVID restrictions. File photo/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY — Didsbury Museum staff and volunteers have kept busy, working on displays and planning for upcoming projects despite the ongoing challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, council heard.

Didsbury and District Historical Society (DDHS) president Rick Astle made a 15-minute presentation as a delegation during the Nov. 9 council meeting.

During his appearance, Astle said volunteers continue to be absolutely vital to the museum’s success, noting there were 2,100 volunteer hours contributed between Sept. 2020 and Aug. 2021.

“If it wasn’t for our volunteers, we wouldn’t exist,” Astle said.

Fundraising also remains an important part of keeping the museum going.

“In 2021, we’ve had periods when we have been kept closed to the public so nobody comes in but all of our utilities keep on going,” he said. “So, consequently our donations have fallen off to about half of what they were in 2018.

“The government contributions have significantly changed — a couple of the grants that we used to apply for don’t exist anymore.”

The society held an online auction focusing on items donated by the public, he said.

The museum’s 2021-22 budget calls for total revenue of $54,865, down from $66,633 in 2020-21 and $72,102 in 2019-20.

Visitor traffic has been down a bit so far in 2021, which is not surprising considering the museum was closed to the public from March 17 to June 15 due to COVID restrictions, he said.

“We were closed for three and half months and restricted to one-third of our occupancy,” he said. 

Utilities are estimated to cost about $11,000 this year and “they are not going down,” he said. 

Maintenance of the 114-year-old museum continues to create some challenges, he said.

“The roof has been an ongoing issue for a number of years now,” he said. “It was replaced in 1994 and it is now in significant need of repair.

"If you’ve been around the grounds when the model railroad club was working on the garden railroad, you’d have noticed us picking up bits of shingle after every wind storm. The shingles are drying out and being damaged.”

The museum has entered into a contract with Shake Experts to repair the roof, he said.

“That’s going to cost us slightly more than $25,000,” he said. “With the repair we are doing, we hope to get an additional 10 to 15 years out of the roof.”

Personal Electric has been contracted to upgrade the fire alarm system in the museum building, he said.

Longhorn Painting has applied epoxy flooring to the archivist room, making it smoother, safer and brighter, he said.

“It was a concrete floor that was breaking up,” he said.

New displays have recently been completed, including the War Brides exhibit in the military room as well as an addition to the ag/sports room.

The new history book has been well received, he said.

Mountain View Railroad has created a garden railway on the east side of the building, which has already proven popular with guests, including during Canada Day.

Additionally, the museum’s website is being updated after many years, he said.

“For that, we have to thank the generosity of Windsor Graphics, because they have donated it all including the hosting. It’s looking very good,” he said.

The museum has also supported a number of local activities, including Days of Yore and Arts Festival, he said.

The veterans banner project has continued in 2021, he said.

The society has developed several partnerships over the years, including with Central Alberta Museum Network, Travel Alberta, Mountain View Arts Society, the chamber of commerce, the model railroad club, Zion Church, Town of Didsbury, Mountain View County, and Alberta Museum Association. Those relationships continue be an important part of the museum, he said.

Mayor Rhonda Hunter commended volunteers and staff for their ongoing efforts.

Council accepted Astle’s report as information.