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Dryden Museum looking to include people from surrounding communities

Mayor Jack Harrison said he would support a revised by-law to include two seats for those living outside the municipality.
file photo

DRYDEN – During Monday night's council meeting, Michelle Walter, museum and heritage coordinator, offered two reports to councillors.

In the first report, the museum requested $1,000 be transferred from the Museum Advisory Board Reserve Fund to aid in digitizing the Dryden Observer.

Originally known as the Wabigoon Star when it began publication in 1897, the Dryden Observer was a weekly newspaper that ceased publication in 2019.

Walter stated in 2022 that the Dryden Public Library and Dryden & District Museum began digitizing the newspapers after the paper collection had been seized from an unpaid storage unit.

“Although it's a tedious process, this project will help to preserve the original copies while increasing access to the content of the newspapers which have documented the development of our area, presence of local businesses, provides genealogical support through the obituaries and so much more,” Walter said.

With a $81,326 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage in the reserve fund, Walter revealed that the total project will cost approximately $102,330.

In 2023, the Museum Advisory Board turned to community members and business organizations for support, and through donations, $1,000 was committed to the reserve fund.

“We have waited till now to request that these funds be transferred to cover the final aspects of this project this year in 2024,” Walter stated.

Council will vote on this motion at the May 27 meeting.

The museum’s second recommendation to council was to rescind a by-law which only allows residents of the municipality to sit on the Museum Advisory Board.

The museum is asking council to accept a new by-law that expands the boundary limits to 45 kilometres outside the municipality, including the neighbouring First Nations communities of Eagle Lake First Nation, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, Lac Seul First Nation and Wabauskang First Nation, to represent the district.

"We would also like to mention that our museum exists to serve not just those who live within the city of Dryden limits. Our name even suggests this by being titled the Dryden District Museum," Walter said. 

“Our collection shows this as well, claiming artifacts and archival records from tourist camps, gold rock and other key locations in our surrounding area because we are encompassing more than just those within our immediate vicinity. We should strive to accurately represent this community as a whole to do so.”

The Dryden & District Museum Advisory Board has nine spots, including one spot open to a city council member. Currently, there are five volunteers, including Coun. Bill Latham, who sit on the board.

By expanding the board's catchment area, the museum is hoping to fill more seats.

“The restrictions on location have in the past led to an individual leaving their position on the museum advisory board as they moved out of city limits and no longer qualified with low board numbers," Walter said.

"The museum advisory board struggles to make decisions and plan fundraising events due to how many human resources are needed to put these plans into action and generally support the museum to the best of their ability. We believe that by opening up a couple of these spots to those outside of the city limits. Our board may expand and may be more able to fulfill their purpose."

Walter pointed out the expansion would not affect the taxpayer's base as the advisory board operates outside of the financial obligations to the city. As the museum is a municipally-funded organization, all of its funding is governed by the city.

Mayor Jack Harrison said he would support a revised by-law to include two seats for those living outside the municipality.

“I’m supportive. You brought up the fact that it's not a governance board, so it's not a tax base issue, but it's an advisory board. So I think that's a very good idea to expand it to include two members from outside our city,” said Harrison.

Coun. Ritch Noel stated he was in full support, but asked the boundary be extended a little further to Vermilion Bay because the community has close ties with Dryden history.

Council will vote on this motion on May 27.

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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