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It’s refreshing to see the city work to retain its museums: Montpellier

Greater Sudbury city council will vote next month on whether to keep city’s four museums closed throughout 2022 and for the city to develop a Museums Revitalization Business Plan
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Anderson Farm Museum. (File)

The City of Greater Sudbury’s four museums are on track to remain closed for another year, but the closure is not expected to be permanent.

This, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said, is a far cry from cutting the curator position, which was initially proposed in 2021 budget deliberations before city council reversed their decision. He was among those on council to push for the position’s reinstatement. 

“I’m a firm believer in little bite-sized things,” Montpellier said. “All the little pieces come together to make it a nice place to visit, and they’re all parts of it.”

The city’s elected officials were slated to debate the future of city museums during a city council meeting last week, but Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann introduced a successful motion to defer council debate until next month.

“I would like my colleagues to fully understand the implications of this,” she said, urging city administration to create a report on the municipality’s four museum sites for council to consider alongside a report by Communications and Citizen Services Ian Wood and its associated motions.

Sudbury.com reached out to Landry-Altmann for additional comment but was unable to connect with her despite repeated attempts.

Landry-Altmann spoke up in favour of museums last week as well as in March, when city council voted to reinstate the $152,518 of salaries and program budget to the Museums Section, which they’d initially slated to end.

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini was unavailable for comment on Monday, but Montpellier, whose ward borders Vagnini’s, said he’s also keen on maintaining city museums and is enthused to see the motions currently before council point to the longevity of the municipal facilities. 

This includes providing up to $210,000 in one-time funding from reserves to develop a Museums Revitalization Business Plan for consideration as part of the 2023 budget.

This, he said, is a far cry from 2021 budget deliberations. 

“I was rather pissed off because they wanted to cut and alter museums and cut the curator,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about the city sending an anti-visitor message. Montpellier also cited the closure of welcome centres and two of three recreational vehicle dump sites the city operates at wastewater treatment plants as being detrimental to tourism. 

“You might as well put up a sign that says, ‘Move along to North Bay,’” he said. “I don’t believe cutting baseline services in your tourism is the way to go.”

A “big supporter of museums,” Montpellier said Anderson Farm Museum in Lively hosted important events that brought the community together before it temporarily closed when the pandemic hit.

Also included in the city’s Museums Section is the Copper Cliff Museum, the Flour Mill Museum and the Rayside-Balfour Museum in Azilda. The Anderson Farm Museum is the largest and receives the bulk of visitors, which in 2019 totalled 19,158, while all other museums received 169 visitors.

The Northern Ontario Railway Museum and Heritage Centre in Capreol is not owned by the city, but the incorporated not-for-profit museum receives municipal funding. 

In addition to a business plan, next month will find city council consider suspending museum services throughout 2022 and building a fence around the Flour Mill Museum. Plans to build a storage and administration building at the museum would be suspended, with the funds shifting toward the business plan, which could include the project. 

The museums were developed by different municipalities prior to amalgamation and lack a co-ordinated strategy, which Wood’s report said a business plan would establish.