Volunteers managing the Manitoba Agricultural Museum, home of Canada s largest collection of vintage agricultural equipment, says it faces an uncertain future as they grapple with a cut in operating funds.
Although they ve known for a while the cuts that took effect last January were coming, it s been tough to come up with an alternative plan, said president of the museum s board of directors Chad Bodnarchuk.
As year-end looms, some very tough decisions are going to have to be made, he said in a recent interview.
We re definitely threatened by our lack of funding, he said. Our status is uncertain. I d love to say we re going to be status quo a year from now but I m not confident of that yet.
2011 is the first year the museum has felt the impact of a significantly reduced government grant. The funding cut resulted from a decision to shift responsibility for the museum from Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives to Culture Heritage and Tourism, which oversees grants to all other museums in the province.
That change actually took place nearly six years ago, but the museum continued to receive its original level of funding, of $131,000 per year, until last year.
A review undertaken in 2010 by Culture Heritage and Tourism of its signature museum program, of which the MAM is now included, prompted the change.
The agricultural museum funding has been placed on par with what other signature museums in Manitoba receive which is up to $55,800 plus an additional grant for a festival, said Deputy Minister of Culture Heritage and Tourism Cindy Stevens.
They were receiving significantly more money than the other museums in the program, she said. To bring all the museums into an equitable position is why their funding was changed.
Staff with both government departments are working on a business plan to help the museum find new revenue streams, she added.
But the bottom line going forward is there s going to be a lot less money for operating expenses, Bodnarchuk said, adding that the funds they receive must now go towards marketing and interpretation.
We run about a $400,000 budget, he said. We need money for maintenance, and repairs and staffing. We re sitting on a half section of land and we have a collection (of artifacts) built up over 50 years here. There s a lot of things to fix.
The board will have to meet several times before year s end to decide on a course of action, he said. It must map out strategic planning, approve this pending business plan and set a budget for next year.
We need to look at how we re going to operate or if we re going to operate, said Bodnarchuk.
The museum held its 57th annual Threshermen s Reunion this year, with an estimated attendance of 10,000 through the gates. The event is a key fundraiser as well as making it eligible for additional provincial funding up to $10,000.
Established in 1951 as the Agricultural Memorial Museum of Manitoba, it is a 320-acre home to upwards of 500 pieces of machinery dating back to the 1900s, plus a pioneer village of 20 buildings, camping and picnic grounds, and a souvenir shop.
The museum was developed after postwar farmers began to be concerned about the amount of farm machinery from the pioneer era being scrapped or sold out of province.
The museum employs two full-time and one part-time office staff plus a outdoor foreman.
It shares its signature museum status with five other Manitoba museums including the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, the Mennoni te Heritage Museum in Steinbach, the Muse de Saint- Boniface, the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg and the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli.
We need to look at how we re going to operate, or if we re going to operate.
Manitoba Agricultural Museum president