After 25 years on display inside a former Royal Bank building on Roland’s Main Street, the 4-H Museum is looking for a new home.
At the end of this summer they will pack everything up, whether they have a new site to move to or not, say Roland residents tasked with finding it.
It’s a drastic move, but necessary to protect the collection from future deterioration due to problems with dampness in the building.
The 4-H collection is extensive, with everything from trophies to hand-sewn dresses and shirts to ‘A 4-H Member Lives Here’ signage — and they can’t let the building compromise it, says Colleen Hodgson, a member of the Historical Society of the RM of Roland.
They now continuously run dehumidifiers to keep down the humidity that rises from the basement of the 1902 brick building.
“It’s an old, old cement basement, and the moisture down there is a problem,” she said. “We haven’t had trouble with humidity on the main floor (where the 4-H artifacts are housed), but that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Upkeep for the old building has also become prohibitively expensive. Heating bills have mounted to around $3,000 a winter, and all their fundraising efforts now only go to maintenance, said Hodgson. “The hydro takes all our fundraising,” she said.
The museum, initiated by members of the local historical society, opened in 1988 during the 75th anniversary of the 4-H program, which started in Roland in 1913.
The dream now is to find a new location with at least double the space and open to the public every day. They aren’t considering building because a free-standing building isn’t feasible, Hodgson said. Nor is trying to renovate the existing building. It’s a municipal heritage site. They’d love to make upgrades and renovate it but the costs are prohibitive.
“What we’re doing now is talking with the (RM of Roland) municipality to find some way to add on to an existing building in the community where we would be open five days a week year round,” she said. “That would make us become more like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Morden.”
(That museum is housed inside the Morden Access Event Centre, the city’s recreational centre.)
Everyone is adamant the museum stay in Roland. The south-central village is, after all, where 4-H began as the first official ‘Boys and Girls Club.’ “The community is so proud of that fact,” she said. “It’s extremely important to us that we keep it in our community.”
Where the cash for the move will come from is now the question, however. The only funding the museum has comes from community fundraisers, plus a grant from the Manitoba Provincial Council.
The historical society has recently put the word out that it’s applying for a grant through Cargill’s Together WeThrive program, and is urging the wider 4-H community to vote online to garner support.
The Canadian 4-H Council declared the Roland museum a national museum in 2013, when 4-H dignitaries visited that year’s 100th anniversary celebrations. Donors also contributed $22,000 to help support the museum two years ago. The historical society promptly deposited it all into a special account to cover the costs of a move, Hodgson noted.
“We didn’t want to spend it on the heating bill,” she added.
The Manitoba 4-H Council currently supports the museum annually with a percentage of membership fees being allocated to the museum to assist with its operating costs, said Clayton Robins, the provincial council’s executive director.
“This museum represents the history of the 4-H program and its links to the program’s origin in Roland, so it is important to Manitoba 4-H Council to see it continue and thrive,” he said.
The council is committed to working with the museum board on a short- and long-term financial and promotional strategy, which includes fundraising for the new building, he said. Time will tell what the wider national 4-H community might also be able to do.
“That remains to be seen but will be better defined once the strategies for funding and promotion are developed,” he said.