STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr. Howard Epstein
MR. CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, good morning. I wonder if we could call to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Our business today is to meet with representatives of the Department of Tourism and Culture's Heritage Division, particularly with respect to museums in the province. I would like to welcome our guests. We are being joined today by the Executive Director of Heritage, Mr. David Newlands; Ms. Debra Burleson, who is the Director of the Museum of Natural History; Mr. Paul Collins, Curator of Community Museums Assistance Program; and Ms. Debra McNabb, Director of the Museum of Industry. I would like to welcome all of you. My name is Howard Epstein and I am the MLA for Halifax Chebucto and I chair this committee.
The way we usually proceed is to invite our guests to make an introductory presentation. I see you have given all of us copies of what it is you intend to say but I would ask you if you would be so good as to go through it with us, that way it will become part of the record of the proceedings. After that, we will then move to each of the caucuses who will have then an opportunity to ask questions. So if you would like to proceed, please do.
MR. DAVID NEWLANDS: The Nova Scotia Museum has a long and distinguished history of service to Nova Scotians and visitors to the province. The museum has changed over the years but continues the tradition of being a heritage resource that contributes to the quality of life and to the social and economic well-being of Nova Scotians.
The Nova Scotia Museum is the most decentralized museum in North America. It consists of 26 sites, over 200 buildings and 4 ships. Together, our sites are the most visited heritage attraction in Atlantic Canada. We welcome over 681,000 visitors to our sites, which does not include the more than 25,000 visitors each year who take advantage of our trails, or the more than 500,000 visitors who come to us by way of the Internet, annually. On top of this, 45,675 children used one of our 527 school kits, specially prepared to supplement classroom learning experiences. We also answer thousands of telephone enquiries every year that range from a school student who asks for anything we have about bugs, to detailed scholarly enquiries from leading museums and researchers throughout the world.
The 26 Nova Scotia museum sites vary from a fully operational grist mill that sells processed oats, buckwheat and wheat, to a steam-powered sawmill. We also have the Firefighters' Museum in Yarmouth that has one of the finest collections of firefighting equipment in the country and tells the important human story of fighting fires across the years in Nova Scotia.
We also have residences: the home of Richard John Uniacke, nestled in an estate of 2,500 acres in Mount Uniacke; Prescott House, with its country gardens and apple orchard; and North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry, with its stunning collection of late 17th and 18th century English furniture, china, paintings and silver.
Another of our sites is the very popular Fishermen's Life Museum in Jeddore/Oyster Pond, the former home of the Myers family, representing a lifestyle of ordinary working Nova Scotians, far removed from that of Richard John Uniacke. Especially important as part of our contribution to the economic and cultural life of the province are the large sites of Sherbrooke Village, Ross Farm, the Fundy Geological Museum, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, and the Nova Scotia Highland Village.
Sherbrooke Village has won awards in the past two years, including the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia's Attraction Award in 1999, it was Atlantic Canada's representative for the Canadian Tourism Commission's, 2000 Christmas in Canada Award and was the first runner up for the national prize. It has also been nominated for Attractions Canada's Developed Outdoor Site Award for 2001.
The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is a major tourist attraction in Lunenburg. Last year it welcomed over 107,000 visitors. This week they will be opening a new $800,000 aquarium facility.
In Halifax we have two important sites: the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic; and the Museum of Natural History. Both of these institutions bring specialized knowledge to a very large audience. The Museum of Natural History is one of the favourite destinations for Nova Scotian families and reaches out to disadvantaged children. It continues its major provincial role in environmental education and has an active research program in the natural
sciences. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is an award-winning tourist attraction on Halifax's waterfront, with its exhibits on the Titanic, shipwrecks and Theodore Tug Boat.
The Museum of Industry in Stellarton, located on the very site where the General Mining Association established its first coal mine in Nova Scotia in 1827, presents the human side of the story of industrial development throughout the province, through exhibits, interactive displays and guided tours. It is these heritage resources that help tell Nova Scotians and visitors to the province, who we are.
In addition to the operation of a very complex and varied system of 26 sites, the Nova Scotia Museum provides grants to 63 community museums, located in every part of Nova Scotia, through the Community Museum Assistance Program. Admission to this program is based on meeting certain criteria and then being assessed by a peer review process that has been developed with the co-operation of community museums, to ensure fairness in the awards.
The museum also administers the province's Heritage Property Program, which provides for the designation of heritage properties of provincial significance and also invests, to a maximum of $2,000 a year, for conservation work to support the preservation of these important structures. In fiscal year 2000-01, we invested $88,793 in 74 property preservation projects, carried out by our community partners.
The Nova Scotia Museum has responsibility for a growing number of provincial initiatives. In addition to the Heritage Property Act, we also administer an Act to provide for the protection of cemeteries and have responsibility for the protection of significant historical, archeological, fossil and shipwreck sites, under the Special Places Protection Act. We licence all archeological activity in the province. We maintain a very large collection of archeological artifacts and an archeological database. We are engaged with community partners in preservation-based projects with major community economic development implications, such as the one which seeks World Heritage Site designation for the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, the world's premiere Coal Age fossil site. We participate in programs, including exhibits, and the publication and provision of educational resources, to redress the imbalance in the presentation of Acadian, Black Nova Scotian, Mi'kmaq, and Gaelic communities.
Core to the life of the museum is the preservation and interpretation of a collection of over 500,000 artifacts. The Nova Scotia Museum as a source of accurate nature and history information for the public, tourism industry and other departments and agencies of government.
Whether you want to view a herbarium specimen, an 1863 Amoskaeg steam fire engine, a preserved insect, a John Young spinning wheel, or Canada's oldest surviving locomotive, our curators and collections provide information for researchers of all ages.
Our mission is to be both a leader and a partner in the delivery of high-quality and sustainable heritage resources to increase the quality of life and create economic opportunity in communities throughout Nova Scotia. This is achievable because we have a major network of partners and 15 of our 26 sites are managed by local groups working closely with us. We understand the importance of the local community as full participants in our activities. Community groups own or manage the 63 community museums that receive financial assistance from us this year. We have tourism partners, private sector partners, working relationships with universities and schools and other departments and agencies of government. We also work with 40 additional non-profit societies with common interests.
To summarize what I have said so far, the Nova Scotia Museum is the most decentralized museum in North America; it is active in 147 Nova Scotia communities, with a 40-year history of partnerships with local groups and volunteers. It is the only source of stable annual operating funding to museums in the province. It is a major contributor to sustainable tourism, education and the quality of life.
But we face challenges. So the Nova Scotia Museum has a proud history and a lively present, but there are a number of challenges that we must fact with determination and ingenuity if we are to have a vibrant and productive future.
Revenue generation: Since 1993 we have made a major effort to develop revenue through admissions, facility rentals, and gift shop sales. We now earn about $3 million, or one-quarter of our budget, although we believe that revenue from these existing sources is nearing its maximum. So this year we will begin to the first year of a two-year business development experiment at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to develop new ways to generate revenues from sources other than government. This project will be monitored carefully and we expect it to have a strategic impact on our future.
The pressure to fund new museums: There is constant pressure on government from communities wishing to create new museums without a full understanding of the requirement and source of operating money. Although our Community Museum Assistance Program provides advisory services to communities, we are often consulted only after a decision has been made to establish a museum. The pressure on the Community Museum Assistance Program for more money to fund museums means that either we will have to cut the pie into smaller pieces or drop weaker museums from the program. For example, six new museums entered the program in 2000-01 and over a three-year period they will receive increased funding until they reach their full grant; two new museums will be applying in 2002.
Without creative alternatives, it is almost inevitable that new museums will be created in increasing numbers in future years. It would be easy, but misleading, to suggest that the only solution is to put more money into the Community Museum Assistance Program budget. Museums are operated by people who are hard-working and imaginative and their need for funding could be almost unlimited. We plan to develop alternatives over
the next few years by working closely with a wide range of community partners to develop innovative ways of preserving, developing and promoting community heritage resources that don't involve building new museums.
Maintaining the province's collection of significant heritage buildings. The cost of maintaining a system of over 200 buildings, many of which are of unique historical significance, is much higher than the cost of maintaining modern buildings. We must face the growing issue of how best to allocate scarce resources for this purpose. In the past, the Department of Transportation and Public Works has been responsible for maintenance of our buildings. The significant budgetary pressure that they have experienced over the past years has made it increasingly difficult for them to continue to fulfill, adequately, this role. This is one of the major problem areas for which we urgently need to develop creative solutions.
Developing new interpretive programs. If Nova Scotia museum sites are to continue to attract increasing numbers of visitors and contribute to community economic vitality throughout Nova Scotia, we must find ways to continually develop new interpretative programs and exhibits at our sites. Generating the investment dollars to accomplish this will often rely on the ingenuity of the local management group, working with us, to raise the funds for this purpose. Our partners in Lunenburg have recently provided a wonderful example of community enterprise, raising $800,000 for the new aquarium at the Fisheries Museum. We are also working closely with our colleagues in the Department of Tourism and Culture to increase the tourism potential of our museum sites by achieving market readiness, an even better visitor experience, and cross-marketing and partnerships, and most important of all, by evaluating our performance and renewing our programs.
Challenging gaps. There are gaps in the representation of the province's museums overall, even though we may have more museums per capita than any other province, we estimate there are 140 museums in the province. We have recently filled one of the gaps, the representation of the Gaelic language and culture, through the addition of the Highland Village, but we do not have any sites in the provincial system that represent the Acadian, African-Nova Scotian or Mi'kmaq communities.
Community partnerships focused on heritage properties. We are planning to strengthen our advisory services to Nova Scotian communities. We believe that heritage and tourism opportunities can also be met creatively, that museum buildings are not the only solution, just the most obvious one. There are some 245 provincially-registered heritage structures in the province. Many of these are privately-owned residences. We are working with a group of owners of these residences, who have formed the Provincial Heritage Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, to provide information about heritage properties, and interpretive and community events that make the public more aware of the significance of these properties. Here is a non-government initiative that will increase community awareness of heritage.
New initiatives. Community involvement in managing Nova Scotia museum sites. The success of many Nova Scotia museum sites relies heavily on groups of community-minded citizens who give of themselves to partner with us in the management of our sites. Eight of our sites are still managed directly from Halifax. We have begun a process of maximizing community involvement at these sites by working towards developing local management groups for them as well. We will continue to pay the costs of operating these facilities. We are also committed to strengthening advisory services for these new community groups, including training in governance, exhibitions, curatorial, visitors services and marketing, to ensure a strong community commitment and involvement in these museums through these new partnerships.
The Strategic Development Initiative: In 2000-01, we launched the Strategic Development Initiative with $100,000. This fund is available to museums in the Community Museum Assistance Program to fund special projects that will increase self-reliance and sustainability. We require the local group to commit 25 per cent of the cost of the project, of which only 10 per cent has to be in cash, the remainder can be in volunteer time or other resources. The initiative wants to encourage community museums to become stronger through developing new partnerships, and so priority is given to projects between a group of community museums or between community museums and private or non-traditional partners. We want to encourage opportunities for community museums to increase their own earned revenue, while supporting a greater diversity of cultural activities.
This program will create stronger community museums. In the first year, we received requests for over $375,000 for innovative projects. We anticipate the response this fiscal year will be even greater. We sense an enthusiasm in the museum community to become more self-sufficient, more in control of their own future. The Nova Scotia Museum has responsibilities to be a leader and a partner in a co-operative enterprise to protect and preserve our heritage for future generations. This includes research, registration, storage, conservation, publication, interpretation and a host of other activities. As well, through our public programs and involvement in communities, we are working to support social, cultural and economic development. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Newlands, thank you very much. A very interesting presentation. Before we turn to the questioning, I wonder if you might introduce, to the committee, your colleagues. I was remiss earlier in not inviting you to point out who's who, although I named them.
MR. NEWLANDS: On my left is Debra Burleson, the Director of the Museum of Natural History; on my right, Mr. Paul Collins, the Curator of the Community Museums Assistance Program; and on my far right, Debra McNabb, the Director of the Museum of Industry in Stellarton.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The way we do this is we move to each of the three caucuses and allocate a certain amount of time to each of them. Our usual procedure is to have about 20 minutes each, in the initial round, and then we will see where we are. We will start with Mr. Robert Chisholm of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I appreciated your opening comments. The role played by your department is extremely important in the province, and something we have been paying some attention to as we have discussed the budget in the Province of Nova Scotia that has just come down this spring.
I wanted to ask you a few questions. I wanted to start with the Community Museums Assistance Program, in particular. This program has been reduced this year, and I am particularly interested in your comments as to the impact of this reduction. Some of the money has been shifted from - my understanding, and I would seek clarification - what is considered, I guess, by the museum, as more of an operating grant type of funding to the, I think it is, the Strategic Development Initiative. You have laid out, here in your opening statements, sort of what the thought was, trying to generate more money out of less money.
The problem that I have with that is twofold: one is that as the basic base operating funds diminish, it makes it harder for museums to pay for their basic expenses and requires them, therefore, to participate more in fundraising; and the second part of that is the ability of museums to partner in their communities to raise funds is very different from one community to the next and, depending on where you are in the province, you may be disadvantaged by this type of initiative.
If you, Mr. Newlands, and perhaps Mr. Collins, or whomever, would like to explain what is happening with respect to community museums and maybe you can allay some of my fears.
MR. NEWLANDS: First of all, chronologically, the Strategic Development Initiative was launched last year, a year when we added $20,000 to the Community Museum Assistance Program. So in fact it was not a reduction in order to fund the Strategic Development Initiative; they are independent activities. This year we cut 2 per cent from the Community Museum Assistance Program. That was a total of $16,000, but we had to fund $12,000 worth of new grants for the program and that is because new sites which come on don't get their full grant, as I mentioned in my presentation, the first year; they get one-third of their grant each year.
So there are, I believe, eight or nine museums which are actually getting increases. So the net reduction in the Community Museum Assistance Program is about $6,000. Now the program essentially consists of two parts: one is actual grants to the museums, and the other one is an advisory service. Mr. Collins and other staff go out regularly to the museums and I consider this as important and an equally valuable part. It is a non-funded part in the
sense that the community museums don't pay for it, but it is part of the program. So the reduction of $6,000 actually made up in additional work that we provide to the community museums, and $6,000 out of a budget of close to $1 million is not a disaster for the museums.
To your second question, the Strategic Development Initiative, I believe in my capacity as a museum professional that it is important for our museums to learn to become more related to their communities. One of the ways to do this is, as you indicated, through community programs and through financing. A number of our community museums get no municipal support whatsoever. It appears that the major source of support is either what they can raise themselves or the provincial government. We see ourselves as partners in the enterprise and we would like to see more community involvement on municipal levels and other levels.
I think, as I indicated in my presentation, that the Strategic Development Initiative really presents to community museums a challenge. Many museums have responded and many more are interested. The unique feature of the program is that we give preference to projects which are partnerships between museums as well, so the museums that you mentioned, that may have difficulty in developing a proposal or finding ways to respond to this initiative, can partner with other museums. Two or three museums have gotten together and made a common proposal. In fact, we favour those over individual grants. So we are trying to create partnerships within museums, recognizing that there are smaller, weaker museums that need that partnership, but we are also trying to develop partnerships with the community.
I think museums are stronger when they can stand on their own feet. The province is certainly a major long-term partner in supporting them. I sense, as I mentioned - and I will let Mr. Collins continue on after I finish my comments - a sense of excitement developing, a sense that they can get access to a substantial amount of money to do a project, which they before thought government was not interested in that, is innovative. In that sense, that I think is good. Our task in our advisory service is to work with the museum, show them how to develop proposals, how to make application and to encourage that sense of excitement, that sense of renewal.
At present, by continually just funding operating grants, we are funding the inputs into museums. What we want to begin to fund are the outputs. What are they doing in their communities? How effective have they been? I think the Strategic Development Initiative begins to move them towards measuring outputs, towards measuring how successful they have been in partnerships, what new creative ideas. By going to the community, what new creative ideas have they learned and so on. We are young in this, it is only the second year of the program and I am sure that we will learn as well as the museums from this activity.
MR. PAUL COLLINS: I would support David's observations that there is excitement across the province with this Strategic Development Initiative. Yesterday I was in Amherst where the Amherst museum, Cumberland County Museum, has sort of spearheaded a project to develop heritage tours with bus companies, local and beyond. When they first started they had about four museums that would be joining in. Now that they have their money, now that they have actually started and they are in the communities again, there are three other museums that have joined in. They are very excited about this possibility. It is becoming a driver.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It is no surprise to anyone on this committee that there is excitement in these community museums because these community museums largely exist because of a result of the interest and the effort of local people and I appreciate the fact that what nets out in your description as a $6,000 cut is not a disaster. These aren't huge budgets in some of these museums and when you have to scrape and spend time and energy trying to focus on how to pay for the lights and the inputs, then it takes away from your ability to be creative and put that initiative and energy into coming up with ways to fund outputs. That is my concern.
My understanding is and you have described it here again about the community assistance program is that it is a peer-related allocation and it causes me some concern that this type of funding that is so basic in many cases, would begin to be whittled away. I raise this concern, I have talked to people in the province who are involved in community museums who are concerned about the pressure that this puts on them. I know that in your department as throughout government, people are trying to do more with less and the problem is, the integrity of the community museums is something that is very precious and we all need to be wary of how it is that integrity is being maintained.
I appreciate what you have said and the efforts that are being undertaken by your department. I remain somewhat skeptical that the importance of the inputs not be diminished over the outputs.
I have a couple of other questions in other areas if I may, Mr. Chairman. The whole question of archaeological artifacts and the co-operation, or lack thereof, between your department with builders and developers. For example, in the development of the recent digging for the downtown parking garage - where it is being built - there were a number of items discovered and I wondered if you could explain to the committee how it is that that all shook down with the builders, the developers.
MS. DEBRA BURLESON: David has asked me to have a go at that. The Special Places Protection Act is the piece of legislation that comes into play here, and it encompasses archeological sites as well as fossil sites and sites of historic importance. The fossils are my piece of the pie, as a Natural History Museum director, not the archeology, but since there are parallel processes at work, I will have a go at that one and see if I can help here.
The Special Places Protection Act makes it illegal to disturb, is the word, any place where there are or are likely to be archeological, paleontological or historical remains of importance. The general drill is, when a developer is going to disturb the ground or dig a hole, and there is a likelihood, from either past research, surface testing, which is just people who have walked along and picked up things off the surface, or there is some indication that there may be artifacts, then the developer is required to notify us and to get a permit to do that work. It is much more common nowadays, I must say, for developers to be highly aware of this.
In the case of the parkade, from our point of view, from the Public Service's point of view and from the legislation's point of view, it was actually a shining example in that the developer was fully aware of his responsibilities, fully aware because of the Central Trust excavation, that you may recall from years ago that produced some very good artifacts of great importance and put all the necessary permitting in place, contracted at the developer's own cost, with professionals from Saint Mary's University, to do some testing and some excavation there. The artifacts that were recovered are initially looking somewhat interesting, although perhaps not intensely so, but the work was indeed done properly. The objects collected are at Saint Mary's University being curated and assembled and, in due course, they will find their way into the possession of the province, into the museum collection, which is the correct thing to do, according to the legislation.
That one, I am very pleased to say, is a good news story. I think we have gone on record in the press as having nothing but praise in this case for both the developer and the archeologists who did that particular piece.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Great, thank you. Are there examples where there have been problems where the legislation has been ignored lately? Are there things that we could be doing to ensure that greater attention is paid to the requirements of the legislation?
MS. BURLESON: On the archeological side, the difficulty with it is probably where the legislation is not being respected. You never hear about it. We would hear, via the grapevine, often a very poor and thinly tendriled grapevine, very unsubstantiated words that somebody was excavating in some part of the province and they found something and they quickly buried it or threw it away so nobody could find out. You do hear these things.
In any significant, major project, my sense is - and perhaps some of the staff might have something to add - that awareness and respect for the legislation and for the need to do things right has grown significantly in the last decade, I would say. I think it has taken every bit of that decade. We could go back 10 or 15 years and find examples where large and prosperous developers did not wish to respect the legislation without having the penalties pointed out to them, but that is less and less the case.
I think that much credit must be given to heritage groups here, including the First Nations people, the Acadian people, that there is such a public awareness now of the importance of having artifacts and having careful excavation done that there are community watchdogs all over the province. It is certainly the same on the fossil side, where fossils are equally protected. If not for the people in the communities appreciating the importance of their own heritage and the province's heritage, we would not hear. Because we do now hear, generally, about things going on, developers are encouraged, I would say, to gain the respect and the partnership of the people in the communities and to follow the legislation.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: That is good news. Thank you. You talked in terms of challenging gaps. Being that we don't have any sites in the provincial museum that represent Acadian, African-Nova Scotia, or Mi'kmaq communities, I wonder if you could advise the committee of the plans that your department has to rectify that problem.
MR. NEWLANDS: There are ongoing discussions with First Nations groups about their desire to have interpretive centres. What our role is, of course, is unclear, but we are working with them. In terms of Black Nova Scotians, we do provide support. We have done it through exhibits and through publications, support for the initiative of Black Loyalists in Shelburne. They are developing their own sites. It doesn't mean necessarily that we have to add more to the ownership to the Nova Scotia Museum, but I guess my concern is that we must be more aware and more involved, at least in the community groups that are doing this.
In terms of the Acadians here, too there have been some sites developed in the last couple of years for which we are asked to get involved. We do give some funds through the Community Museums Assistance Program, but I do think that if I can look 20 or 30 years down the road our system would be better and stronger if we had strong representation within it of sites representing Mi'kmaq, African-Nova Scotians, and Acadians, just as we now have with the Gaelic community.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The time is up for this round.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I am not sure who can answer which questions. I was looking at the printout for the funding for the various museums over the last several years, and I noticed for the fiscal year 1999-2000 - and it is entitled Nova Scotia Museum Sites Financial and Statistical Trends (Operating Budget) - there are contributions for 23 different museum sites listed. I would imagine you have that information, do you not? I noticed that in the last fiscal year 16 out of the 23 received a reduction as a percentage of the total budget from the province, although there have been some increases, but as a percentage of their total budget there have been significant decreases, what is the rationale to that?
MR. NEWLANDS: I missed the first part of your question, I had trouble hearing it.
MR. MACKINNON: As a percentage of the total revenues for the 23 museums that you have listed, the province's contribution has been reduced in 16 out of the 23. What is the rationale?
MR. NEWLANDS: These are the sites that form part of our museum. The amount of money the sites get depends on their needs each year. Some years they get more, some years they get less. We fully fund the needs of the museums, whether it be the Firefighters or the Fisheries Museum. There is some change, but whatever change might be from one account to the other does not materially affect what they deliver as programs. For example, one year heating fuel may be up and we give more money. We also have additional funds in other budgets for maintenance of these sites, so if it is a reduction in their grant, they also have access to other funds.
MR. MACKINNON: Is there a particular set of criteria for this funding allotment?
MR. NEWLANDS: Each of the sites submits a budget to us.
MR. MACKINNON: But that wasn't my question. My question was, are there particular criteria for funding allotments?
MR. NEWLANDS: Other than what they request from us in terms of budget. It has been in the past, in the last couple of years, we have straight-lined. In the last three years they have been straight-lined. That is, at most, we give them the same budget they had the year before.
MR. MACKINNON: So it is a subjective issue?
MR. NEWLANDS: But if you are talking about the big sites in Halifax, reductions in budget, of course, are to meet fiscal targets.
MR. MACKINNON: Would that not apply to the other institutions, as well?
MR. NEWLANDS: Not necessarily. What has happened, traditionally, over many years, is that the local community-run sites have maintained their budgets and the budgets for the sites in Halifax have been cut. This is over a number of years. It is a continuing process.
MR. MACKINNON: I want to be clear. You are telling us that there are no set criteria for funding allotments?
MR. NEWLANDS: Other than the budgets required to run those sites.
MR. MACKINNON: Who makes that decision?
MR. NEWLANDS: If it is one of the locally managed sites, they submit budgets to us each year.
MR. MACKINNON: But who makes the decision at your level as to what the funding allotments are?
MR. NEWLANDS: It is made by staff in the museum.
MR. MACKINNON: And who comprises the staff?
MR. NEWLANDS: Well, initially, the director of the history section will go through it and then, when all the directors meet together and we look at our fiscal targets and we look at our needs, one site might need more money one year and one less. Then the adjustments are made.
MR. MACKINNON: The final decisions are made at that level?
MR. NEWLANDS: We don't make the decision. We make recommendations.
MR. MACKINNON: Who do you make the recommendation to?
MR. NEWLANDS: We make the recommendation to the deputy minister in the department. We are only a line division of the department.
MR. MACKINNON: So they make they final decision as to what the final funding allotment is for each of these institutions?
MR. NEWLANDS: Well, they make the final decision on the budget for the museum. We make recommendations, yes. And they can and they have questioned some of our allocations and we must justify them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I may just observe, I think the document you are quoting from seems not to be part of our materials and I understand you will be tabling it so the rest of the committee can be following along.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, I will, Mr. Chairman. Just as soon as I am finished referencing it. It is a freedom of information request I received from their department on their budget.
MR. NEWLANDS: That is part of my difficulty. I don't have that document in front of me, so I am not quite sure what you are referring to.
MR. MACKINNON: I noticed, and it is certainly an issue I brought up myself on a previous day, that the Museum of Industry in Stellarton has received a rather substantial increase in its budget compared to the other museum sites. What is the rationale for that?
MR. NEWLANDS: I will make one general comment and then turn it over to Debra McNabb, who has greater detailed information. Over the last number of years, the Museum of Industry is now operating at about one-half the budget it formerly had.
MS. DEBRA MCNABB: The increase that you are seeing there in that document reflects the fact that the Museum of Industry has taken over responsibility for administering an artifact storage facility for the Nova Scotia Museum. It is located in Stellarton and it is the former Department of Mines building. The increase is for a 40,000 square foot building, which is housing artifacts from museums throughout the Nova Scotia museum system that have inadequate storage facilities. So the increase in our budget reflects the costs of maintaining that facility and it is has nothing to do with the Museum of Industry, per se.
MR. MACKINNON: But it still comes in under the Museum of Industry's budget?
MS. MCNABB: Yes, because I am responsible for administering the maintenance costs of that building.
MR. MACKINNON: Does that include fossils?
MS. MCNABB: There are fossils stored there, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: It does? Is that a yes?
MS. MCNABB: There are fossils stored there, yes, from the Museum of Natural History's collection.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, so the answer is yes. I understand that the University College of Cape Breton has several thousand pieces of fossils in its possession and has been trying to secure some funding from the Nova Scotia Museum, your body, within the Department of Tourism and Culture and has not been able to secure that funding. In fact, your department has suggested that all those fossils be turned over to your possession and thereby would, in effect, remove those fossils from the University College of Cape Breton. Can you confirm that?
MS. BURLESON: No, I can't confirm that. The Nova Scotia Museum has written several times to UCCB expressing our desire that the fossil collection you are referring to, although it is the property of the people of Nova Scotia, as are all fossils collected under the Special Places Protection Act, remain in the care of the University College of Cape Breton.
The Museum of Natural History, from its own operating budget, has provided a small amount of money for the past number of years for some of the supplies needed in maintaining a collection and storage. These are things like new cabinets, labelling equipment, pens, the consumables that are gone through. What we have not been able to fund and what the university would very much like us to be able to fund is salary costs for the now professor emeritus who cares for that collection and does a very good job of it. That collection consists of fossils collected in Cape Breton as well as material from all over the world that reflect the professor's individual research interest. It is the fossils that are from Nova Scotia that belong to the province, they bear accession numbers, as does everything that is part of the provincial collection. It is very much our desire that they remain in the area from whence they were collected and that researcher access be made available to them.
For the most part these fossils are not displayable, they are research specimens, although there are some that are interesting to look at, most of them I find rather obscure to look at. It is our desire that that collection remain there. As I have said, we have provided money and cabinetry for a number of years now but we are not able, from our budget, to fund the salaries, especially now that the individual in charge is in an emeritus situation. He would like to have his salary increased by provincial funds.
MR. MACKINNON: How much was allotted in your budget for the supplementary funding, if I could use that term, for the points that you . . .
MS. BURLESON: A tiny amount. We are talking $1,000 here, plus cabinetry, we occasionally come into possession of storage cabinets as other institutions or universities get out of the collecting business. These cabinets are worth $500 to $1,000 each, they are special types of cabinetry. As we get these we funnel them out.
MR. MACKINNON: So we are safe in saying $1,000?
MS. BURLESON: It is a small amount of money, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: How many pieces of fossils are we dealing with?
MS. BURLESON: I'm sorry, I don't have that exact figure.
MR. MACKINNON: Would you have an approximate figure?
MS. BURLESON: No, I don't. I know what it looks like in terms of cabinets but I don't know how many actual pieces are in there.
MR. MACKINNON: Would you say 3,000, 5,000, 10,000?
MS. BURLESON: I'm sorry, sir, I can get that figure for you off the computer but I would not take a guess at it here.
MR. MACKINNON: Do you recall sending a letter to this particular professor indicating that if he wasn't able to maintain the storage and safekeeping of these fossils at the present arrangement that your department would be willing to take them from that site?
MS. BURLESON: That is true. We have a responsibility to care for the things that are in the province's collection basically forever. If the University College of Cape Breton decided that it no longer wished to be in the fossil curating business, then it is my duty to have an alternative solution in mind. It is very much our desire that the University College of Cape Breton keep doing what it is doing, but it is also a reality that across the country, as the professoriate is retiring and being replaced by younger people, they have new research interests. For example, the case at the University of New Brunswick where there was an extremely important fossil collection from Joggins in northern Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick, which was thought to be safely in the care of UNB while a certain individual was there researching it, that individual retired, the university decided that it no longer wished to carry out research in that particular area and it was prepared to actually dispose of the collection in the sense of tossing it.
One of the roles that provincial museums across the country have assumed in the last 10 years, as professors have moved through the system, is to be ready as a safety net to catch those collections that are important to provinces and that may not have other homes. So it is always in our minds to have another home for any collection at all. We call these things orphaned collections and they are becoming one of the major issues that nature museums in particular deal with. So yes, we have a plan B but plan A is very clearly that UCCB will continue to maintain an interest in palaeontology and care for that collection.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I heard Ms. Burleson say that in the universities old fossils are studying old fossils. (Laughter)
MR. MACKINNON: Did you teach at university? What you have indicated is you have a plan B, so obviously you have a site in mind. Where would you transfer these particular fossils to if you were required to tomorrow?
MS. BURLESON: We haven't gone into it in that detail because it hasn't been necessary at this point.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, what is your plan B then?
MS. BURLESON: Plan B is a combination of the Museum of Natural History in Halifax - we have just done some rearranging of our storage there - and the Stellarton facility. There has been some interest from other natural history related agencies in Cape Breton towards doing something around this collection, if it became necessary.
MR. MACKINNON: That is rather fascinating. You increased the budget in Stellarton, rather substantially, almost to the tune of close to $200,000 and you can't find more than $1,000 to help maintain the very fabric of the coal mining industry in industrial Cape Breton, going back to its history, thousands if not tens of thousands of years. You have indicated that your budgetary allotment process is very subjective. Don't you think it is time you started putting some rather concrete criteria and rather detailed analysis into your process, rather than what you have just described as plan B, but you don't know what plan B is?
MR. NEWLANDS: Mr. Chairman, just for the record, we do fund sites in Cape Breton related to the coal industry, the Cape Breton Miners Museum gets the highest single grant from the Community Museum Assistance Program.
MR. MACKINNON: For different reasons.
MR. NEWLANDS: Well, for protection and presentation of the history of the coal mining industry.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, we are speaking specifically of this fossil collection. It certainly wouldn't come within the terms of reference of the confines of the Miner's Museum, would that not be correct? It is just a simple yes or no.
MS. BURLESON: Well, the money that goes to support Erwin Zodrow comes from the Museum of Natural History. It comes from the same budget that goes to buy pens, pencils and paper for the Museum of Natural History.
MR. MACKINNON: Well that is about all you can get for $1,000, isn't it?
MS. BURLESON: That is what is available from the Museum of Natural History.
MR. MACKINNON: And you have indicated that it is a very subjective process, am I correct?
MR. NEWLANDS: Deciding the budgets for our own sites is based on the needs of those sites and in that sense, it is subjective. But you must understand, we do not have money for grants for a wide range of community interests. We constantly get requests for money for restoring locomotives, money for all kinds of community projects and as worthwhile as they are, we do not have within out budgets the capacity to fund these requests, of which we get
in very large numbers. It is not the matter of the value or the importance of the request, it is just that the only grant programs that we have are for heritage buildings under the Heritage Property Act and the grants under the Community Museum Assistance Program. In that regard, as I mentioned, the Cape Breton Miners Museum, we provide them with $82,000 a year and the maximum permitted under the program is $60,000. They have been red circled because of the nature of when they came into the system so they are getting far more than any other museum for the interpretation of the history of coal mining in Cape Breton, so we are doing what we can through the grant programs that are available to us. We cannot, on an ad hoc basis find money within existing operating budgets to give grants to individuals or to special projects that are not within our grant programs.
MR. MACKINNON: But sir, isn't that exactly what you are doing? You have just indicated that there are no written criteria, no set criteria and you have just increased the allotment to the Museum of Industry in Stellarton which is the Premier's home riding, by close to $170,000 and you give $1,000 to the University College of Cape Breton to maintain an entire library of fossils that are probably of paramount importance to the history and the culture of everything that you stand for. Yet, your colleagues suggest that possibly those fossils could be transferred to that site in Stellarton or the Museum of Industry site in Pictou County for storage. It hardly seems as though there is an even playing field here and I would ask if perhaps you, or someone within your department, could explain the rationale for the imbalance.
MR. NEWLANDS: I think I should explain again the reason for the storage site in Stellarton. The museum for many years has had a very large collection of objects which have been requiring storage. Storage is a major concern of the museum and the lack of it has been a problem in the protection of our sites and our collections. We found the building, a former mining building in Stellarton which was available to refit for the storage of our collection, whether it be fossils or carriages or locomotives or furniture or whatever, it is a very large site. The way to manage that facility was from Stellarton because we have a building and a museum there. The fact that we added those costs onto the Museum of Industry's budget is merely to ask them to manage the facility for the whole institution. It is not an increase in the budget of the Museum of Industry in that sense. It is an increase in the budget for storage of collections from all of our sites.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sorry to interrupt this interesting discussion. The 20 minutes is up, I have to move to the PC caucus. Mr. DeWolfe
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to our committee meeting today. A particular welcome to Debra McNabb who I have known for many years. We are also neighbours, we live in the same community and Debra, I would like to add to your lists
of duties, maybe perhaps put you in charge of the potholes in our road. Maybe you will have better luck getting them filled than I do.
I think I will focus on the Museum of Industry just for a few moments before I pass back to my colleague. The Museum of Industry, in my mind, is a wonderful facility, it truly is. It is sort of the focus point of our community and I think it is also a fine example of community involvement and I have been there many times. In fact, my wife is a volunteer at that facility and they have a great many volunteers. The place is used by groups - public hearings are held there, science fairs are held there, the quilting guild and so on - so it is used by the community and it is of great interest to the community. I can't say enough about the facility and the fact that it is now operating at half the amount of budget that it used to is music to my ears. The Museum of Industry operated with little or no funds for some time and that was another positive aspect of community involvement - pulling together to keep that facility going until we got it back on track again. I guess by saying, Debra, that it had a rocky beginning would be a fair statement and I think you were there, right from the beginning. So, perhaps you can comment on that and how we got to where we are today with it.
MS. MCNABB: The Museum of Industry was started in 1986 as a directly-managed site of the Nova Scotia Museum and, as such, had a budget that was given to it by Halifax and it is actually one of the management sections of the Nova Scotia Museum, so we participate in the overall management of the Nova Scotia Museum. The building is the largest single building as a museum building in Atlantic Canada at 80,000 square feet, and 40,000 of that square feet is public space and the rest is devoted to the storage of the collection as well. So a museum of that size is quite expensive to maintain, but also the size is necessary. If you are considering having a Museum of Industry it means you are having a museum of large artifacts.
The museum collection has nine locomotives, we have an excavator, we have two automobiles, and we have steelmaking equipment from Sydney. It represents the history of Nova Scotia's industrial development from Yarmouth to Sydney. We have a collection of about 18,000 artifacts. The museum opened in 1995, and previous to that, in 1993, the government felt it would be a good idea to have the Museum of Industry operate as a locally managed site of the Nova Scotia Museum, and locally managed sites are run by local community groups. In this case, the Friends of the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry Society was formed with Don Sobey as the Chair of the Board of Directors and they received a provincial grant from the Nova Scotia Museum and were charged with the responsibility of coming up with the rest of the operating funds to run the museum. They were successful in obtaining funding to fill the 40,000 square feet of exhibit space with a permanent exhibition and opened the museum in 1995.
The society then had some difficulty in trying to raise the amount of funds required to operate the museum. Museums are never self-sufficient; they always require some kind of funding. With a museum of this size, the power bill alone is over $100,000, so it was quite
a task for them to try to come up with sufficient funds. When they got into difficulty in trying to achieve this, they met with the provincial government again and the province decided to once more take responsibility for directly managing and funding the museum. The finances of the province were such at that time that the budget that the museum got was originally less than one-third of what it had when it had been previously fully funded by the province. Over the past few years that has increased somewhat in order to provide us an opportunity to have a Civil Service staff there. We have a staff of 10 to run the facility.
In addition to operating as a museum and as a tourist attraction for Pictou County, the museum has a facility rentals program and we have seven spaces in the museum that we rent to the public. The purpose of this is both a revenue-generating opportunity for us - this past year we raised over $80,000 in revenue from this source - and also an opportunity to make this facility a community centre. It is quite a lovely facility and we want to make it a resource for the whole community. As Mr. DeWolfe has indicated, we have had a wide variety of events take place there. It started with the Westray Inquiry, which was held in what was then our library, and has since grown to be a resource for all kinds of conventions and hockey tournament banquets, national hockey tournament banquets. Any kind of major event that happens in Pictou County, some aspect of it happens at the Museum of Industry.
So we feel that over the last few years we have made it something that the community now looks to as a place to incorporate in the events. Over the last year the New Glasgow-Stellarton Walking Trail has been extended and now ends at the Museum of Industry site, so that you can walk from the Museum of Industry right to downtown New Glasgow. We hope to promote this in the community to the motorcoach tours that come to the museum facility.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you for that overview. Just very quickly, before I pass to my colleague, I would like to say a few words about the Bridge Avenue facility. As you know, that was my workplace for over 30 years. I know that facility very well, it is a very large facility. It has a great capacity for storage. I would just caution you about putting locomotives in there, because the mine workings are very close to surface at that point.
MS. MCNABB: We checked that out.
MR. DEWOLFE: It is difficult to check out, as well. I do recall one place where there was a cave-in. They hauled for days to fill in the back end of that shop floor, when that was being built. They are probably about 25 feet below there, at some points. That building, by the way, was one of the most efficient buildings to maintain in the province, that the province owned, per square foot, for heating and maintenance. What is the maintenance bill for that now, for a year, for heating? I am sure you probably have the heat turned down considerably, but with the snow load and so on, you have to maintain a certain amount of heat in it.
MS. MCNABB: The heating fuel costs for that building is about $20,000.
MR. DEWOLFE: So, it is well in line. Again, a great facility. The work that you do, the volunteers do at your facility, is that common to have volunteers working at other museums in numbers such as you have at the Museum of Industry?
MS. MCNABB: I think most museums strive to have a volunteer core.
MR. DEWOLFE: They rely on a workforce.
MS. MCNABB: We started with such a small staff, in fact, even to this day we do not have any interpretative staff for our museum exhibits on our payroll. We rely quite heavily on volunteers and we have nurtured them as a group. At present we have 40 volunteers who participate on a weekly basis in some capacity at the museum, and a broader group of about 60. That is quite large within Nova Scotia museums.
MR. DEWOLFE: It seems ironic, going back to the storage facility, I was the one who transferred all our archival material, all our old maps and so on and a great amount of archival material from the Bridge Avenue facility to your Museum of Industry, and now it is probably all back in its old location again. I am jumping around, I know, but the volunteer group, I just wanted to commend you on this, I think it is wonderful and it is important to involve the group as you have. Yesterday, I understand the volunteer group was taken to Truro for a tour of an industry there, the Stanfield's operation. It is very wise to do that, I believe, so that when they are doing their interpretative work and taking tours, that they have a real feel for the industries in Nova Scotia, particularly an industry like Stanfield's that has been around for so many years and is such a large part of our communities in Nova Scotia.
MS. MCNABB: We like to provide training opportunities every year for our volunteer core. The trip yesterday was to Stanfield's and Kimberly-Clark. We expect anyone who is acting in an interpretative capacity in the museum can tell visitors about local Pictou County features, but also talk about what our industrial strengths are today. So, there is nothing like a first-hand tour of a factory to help them learn about that kind of thing.
MR. DEWOLFE: I know the Opposition was concerned about the monies that are transferred to the museum to operate but, as was mentioned earlier, I know the goal of the museums is to stand on their own feet, and hopefully one day our facility in Pictou County will be able to do just that. On that note, I would like to pass to my colleague, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Chairman, it is certainly very pleasant to be here, at all the committee meetings, we meet every Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Out of all the topics we have been discussing so far - my experience is not that long - it is certainly a very exciting topic, talking about our museums in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Newlands, you said something in the very first paragraph, that we are known in this province for the museums that we have in this province. Everybody realizes it is a wonderful thing. They are certainly coming to ask us questions. One of the noblest lines you have, was when you mentioned that museums are operated by people who are hardworking and imaginative, and their need for funding could almost be unlimited. Basically what you have stated there is that the museums in Nova Scotia are run by a group of people, all over the place, and they would certainly like to have more money, but at the same time they do a great job.
I think the main thing is you have pointed out the fact that of the 26 museums, 15 of them are run by local groups, they do the budget, et cetera, and then submit that to the museum. The other thing, of course, is Paul, you are in charge of the 63 associative museums across Nova Scotia, dealing with 147 communities. This is a fantastic thing you are doing, because it has really given everybody in our province far more belief in the history of the area, yet it is affordable. It is a wonderful thing.
One of my first questions, per se, is, you mentioned on Page 6 of your report, we estimate that there are 140 museums in the province. Basically, 26 are run directly by you, 63 are run as associations and get some support from the province, well, this leaves about 50 of them that I would like to know more about. You must have an opinion, you must have a reason for that opinion. I would just like to know more about these other museums, more information.
MR. NEWLANDS: I will ask Mr. Collins to follow up with me to give you more details, but many of the 50 or so that are not part of the program are, in many cases, hoping to become part of the community museum program. There are requirements before one can join it, for example, a museum must be in existence for three years before they can make application, they must meet certain criteria, they must be run by a non-profit society, it must have a collection, must be open so many days of the year or have public access. There are some groups that don't wish to meet that; some groups don't want to be open certain times or some groups that don't have collections but still call it museums. So, in fact, it is their choice to be independent.
I think the trend is that when people think of starting a community museum, they think of coming to the province for money under the Community Museum Assistance Program eventually. So how many of those 50 would like to be part of the program? I cannot say, but I am sure that, certainly, it is on their minds.
MR. COLLINS: And I would say some of those 50 are federal sites. This is just a tally, we are responsible also for a directory in the province of all archives, museums, heritage societies, et cetera, across the whole province. We update that constantly. It is on the Internet, and that is where we get our information. Last week I discovered a new museum in Brookfield, Nova Scotia, a little railroad museum. They are not in our directory; they will now become part of the directory. They are interested in our program as a result of that. There is another museum, I went to visit a woman in Brookfield on Saturday who wants to start to museum.
In the last month, I have had three requests for information about starting a new museum. They are everywhere. It is sort of like they spring up after a rain storm, like mushrooms. I would reiterate that these people are very hardworking. They work very hard for their community. They have some community support. Sometimes these people are feeling a little tired because their community support is not as strong as they would like. We are trying to build that kind of rapport with community through the Strategic Development Initiative, et cetera.
MR. CHATAWAY: I certainly feel that you are going in the right direction. I think the emphasis, that you strongly feel a museum is a far better museum if it is supported locally by the community, you are also saying that everybody can come in, say, give me a museum, give me a museum, but you have to have certain criteria that makes it worthwhile and, at the same time, it has the stamina to sustain itself. I think it is very wise that this money you are spending on special projects is very much talking about how a local museum could start to sustain itself in a way to make money and things like this. The other good point you mentioned in the report is that $3 million of a $12 million budget is made by museums that are selling products that they make on the site and things like that. So you are certainly going in the right direction.
I guess, in that - and maybe I will change this question because I know other questions are up - I do know, in the Heritage Property Act, there are 250 buildings in Nova Scotia that are provincially registered. What is the feedback on it because, inevitably, before it gets registered as a provincial building, many buildings are registered municipally. Do you have any idea of the numbers on that? Because I do know in the municipality that I used to live in - and I still do but was on the council - we had about 20 or 30 provincial buildings, but we had something like 300 municipal buildings. Do you have any idea on that?
MR. NEWLANDS: I don't have any figures in mind. One thing to keep in mind is that a building must be municipally recognized before it can be considered for provincial recognition. But there are a large number of municipally-plaqued buildings.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm sorry, Mr. Chataway, I have to interrupt. We have finished this round. We are going to have a second round now. I think we have enough time for about 12 minutes for each of the caucuses in the second round. Before I proceed, I should note that
the document that Mr. MacKinnon was quoting from earlier has now been tabled. It is called Nova Scotia Museum Sites - Financial and Statistical Trends (Operating Budget) 1999-2000, and copies have been distributed to members of the committee. So with a 12 minute allocation for each caucus, I will go back now to Mr. Chisholm.
MR. ROBERT CHISOLM: Mr. Chairman, I wanted to ask about training for museum curators. What is available in the Province of Nova Scotia, programs that might be available, apprenticeships? What is the relationship like with the universities and the community colleges in the province around the issue of training for museum curators?
MR. COLLINS: In the Province of Nova Scotia, the Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage and the Council of Nova Scotia Archives offer the most specific training for museums. The Community Museum Assistance Program works very closely with both of those federations or councils to deliver training, particularly with the federation. I sit on the education committee there. We look at the statistics that we can generate from our evaluation of all museums across the province and we target training and education in those where we find shortcomings, in the evaluations course.
The federation also has embarked on an interprovincial internship, working with the federal government, the Department of Canadian Heritage. That allows people to move sort of within the Atlantic area to have first-hand observation of how their sites are doing certain things and their internships, one of which, I think, will be given at the Sherbrooke Village Museum. A young woman from Newfoundland wants to go there. There are other ones offered.
In my role as advisor to community museums, I have sort of a generalist knowledge of how museums are run. I offer my expertise where I have it. My particular expertise is collection documentation. I also am aware of lots of areas in the province, within the Nova Scotia Museum or elsewhere, where people can turn for advice. Most often, I ask museums to think about talking to museums within their local area. Oftentimes they have no idea that 30 miles down the road, there is a museum working on a certain kind of project that I happen to know about and I put them in touch with each other.
We have just instigated a listserv for 17 year-round museums in the province so that they are able to communicate with each other very easily about certain issues. How do you do this? What is the best way to do our budget? We are talking about joint proposals. For example, auditing of budgets at the year end is a very expensive proposition. We are talking about forming an association where we can buy auditing services for 17 year-round museums at reduced cost. We are looking at salaries of year-round curators across the province. They are vastly underpaid. They are expected to do a great deal of work. We have participated in the national survey on salaries and now have statistics that we can take to boards across the province.
Many of those workers have no benefits. Those are issues that we are interested in and taking to our 17 year-round museums. We have just instigated what we call a buddy system in the province where year-round museums have one or two or three seasonal museums that they sort of mentor. We are able to deliver training and education through workshops, et cetera. Another, I think, quite astounding thing that we are doing in this province is, May 24th, 25th and 26th, we will give our second annual Spring Heritage Conference where the Council of Nova Scotia Archives, the federation, and my program people will meet together in a very formal sort of heritage conference.
Our understanding is the Homeowner's Association will join in next year. So we are building that sort of synergy of heritage across the province. A great topic this spring at this Heritage Conference is archeology. We are having Dr. Ann-Eliza Lewis from Boston come talk about the Big Dig. We are looking for ways to show this heritage community that archival artifacts and documentation all join together, that fusion creates a better heritage product for all of us in our communities, but for visitors from away.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You have talked about changing the strategic initiative, development initiative and trying to get to the point where museums are able to stand on their own feet. I guess I would ask you, in the evolution of the museum system in the Province of Nova Scotia, where are we at this particular point? That idea of each individual museum being completely independent from government funding basis, where are we in the development of our museum system in the province? Is it a mature system that, realistically, that is able to exist on its own?
MR. COLLINS: The Strategic Development Initiative was geared toward greater self-sufficiency. It was never geared toward stand alone. It was about finding more money. We knew that people needed more money to operate at a higher level, to improve their exhibits, their displays, pay for salaries. Just to simply do a better job. The money is not available. We also realize that in many counties, I will give an example, in Cumberland County, when I was there yesterday, they were talking about the Cumberland County Museum rethinking itself because other museums have sprung up across that county that are interpreting part of the history of that county. It now has to rethink how it does business, but it can only do that in partnership with others. The SDI fund is to help people work towards that goal and realize that goal.
There is an initiative in Annapolis County where this very thing is happening, where they have gotten funding to come together and realize how they can work together within that county to provide that broader community its heritage service. I think without that sort of initiative from the government, many of those museums would have wanted to do that, but did not have the discretionary money to do that.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: What is the status of McCulloch House? It has been shut down.
MR. NEWLANDS: McCulloch House will remain closed this year. Their budget will be $14,000 which is sufficient to provide security, maintenance of the building, heat, light and other utilities. We do not, as I touched on in my presentation, have capital funds for new exhibits at our sites, exhibits which are expensive to develop, to do them well. We didn't have funds to respond to an exhibit proposal at the Firefighters' Museum in Yarmouth a number of years ago.
We have met several times with the local society, the Pictou County Genealogy and Heritage Society and pointed out that we would like to work with them to set up a community based group to look at ways to develop, first of all, the themes for the interpretive program for the house and secondly, ways to find resources within the community or through other levels of government to put that interpretive program in place. We cannot have access at a provincial level to federal funds, but local societies can if they make application. The key factor at present in McCulloch House is that the local society form a committee to work with us. We have requested that a number of times and we are waiting for a response. We hope we will get a response this year. We still maintain ongoing working relations with them, but it seems to us - and I think it is part of our principle - that we do not want to go in to Pictou and tell the people what they are going to say about the Reverend McCulloch. We want them to work with us as a real partnership in developing that story.
We are waiting for that partnership to start. When it does, we will begin the process of defining the exhibits and interpretive program and we will then begin to look - once we have those plans, we can then make application for funding to various sources and we can then begin to see something happen. I hope - and it is our desire - that process will begin this year, but we did not feel that we could continue to provide the full funding of $39,000 for a site that was closed. Those resources were no longer needed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dr. Smith.
DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you to our guests this morning. When you look at the overall budgets of other departments, you realize what a small player we are in the scheme of things and how important it is to our province.
I will probably have some small issues perhaps to bring, some of the concerns or issues that we want to share and have your response. Looking at the Web site in Tourism and Culture, Heritage Division, I think our staff brought it to our attention and we noted - are there any plans to develop that Web site? It doesn't seem to be that prominent within the Tourism and Culture Web site and with all the technology that can be developed, taking us through the museum and giving access to people, broader areas, we are concerned that of the 23 total that there are only a couple east of New Glasgow. I am thinking about accessibility
throughout the province and with this technology, are there any plans afoot to develop the Web site in a prominent way for museums?
MS. BURLESON: The department's Web site is a very recent creation and is still very much in a stage of evolution. The Nova Scotia Museum's Web site, on the other hand, goes back to about 1996 and actually contains over 2,000 pages of content. The Nova Scotia Museum is considered a leader in Canada in terms of putting museum content on the Web. So what I am hearing from you, Dr. Smith, is probably that the link from the department's Web site to the museum pieces needs attention. The museum's own content has won numerous international awards and is an area of tremendous growth for us. There are new pieces being developed even as we speak.
We were extremely gratified that our Web sit on Black Loyalists was one of six key pieces in the recent launch of Canada's Virtual Museum, which is a very high-end museum product coming out of the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage. Our unit on Black Loyalists was selected as a key feature of Canada's Virtual Museum at the launch in Toronto just a few weeks ago. So there is tremendous content there and, as I say, there are probably closer to 3,000 pages now, which is probably one of the largest museum products, not only in Eastern Canada, but in Canada. But, clearly, the link off the department site is inadequate for the public needs. So I appreciate you bringing that to our attention.
DR. SMITH: Thank you. I will share that with our staff and we will follow along.
Admission for schools, what is the status of the fees for schools? Are museums open throughout the province or does that vary? That is one of the things we wanted to clarify.
MS. BURLESON: I can speak to you in terms of the Nova Scotia museum sites. Not all, I would say, but an increasing number of the Nova Scotia Museum sites do now charge a fee to school classes attending a program at the museum. This has been a progressive change and one that has been done with a great deal of thought over the last, say, five years. It is also our policy in the Nova Scotia Museum that no child will be refused admission to a Nova Scotia Museum program or experience because of inability to pay. So that is a policy for all of our sites. The sites implement this in different ways, but it is our need to recover the cost of delivering programs and it is our policy that no one shall be denied access to a program because of inability to pay.
I will just give you one example. At my institution, the Museum of Natural History, we run a very popular program for families during March Break, in which we saw about 15,000 visitors in the nine days of March Break this year and that is typical. There is a fee of a approximately $9.00 or $10 a family for the March Break program. One of the things that we do is we give 500 free family passes to the Metro Food Bank and the food bank distributes these to the other food banks and they are just offered or dropped in the grocery bags of families visiting a food bank, for whom a museum experience might be a good thing. That is just one sort of piece. There is a great deal of trade in letters from principals and
letters from Cub packs from other parts of the province who are asking for some kind of a break or just say that we can't pay. It is very clearly our policy not to deny the experience to somebody because of money.
DR. SMITH: I think we know, from experience, in social welfare systems, that that is very difficult to do sometimes and it goes unnoticed and some people stay away. Anyway, we won't get into that. I just wondered what the status of that was and I think you have answered that.
I represent Dartmouth East and in the riding is Fairbanks Centre within the Shubenacadie Canal system. You mentioned about sliding scales and how you would increase grants or whatever, but the last year or two, the Fairbanks Centre operation was cut, quite dramatically and rather quickly, I think, within one year or within two years of their budget. Is there any information on that that I can take back to our friends and offer some hope? This was a federal-provincial project that probably put in $5 million or $6 million in that particular area. It is one of the few areas that we have in Dartmouth East of that nature and, yet, we see it now either closed or partly closed. I just thought that it was rather abrupt and probably you may have another side to the story that I haven't heard, if you would be prepared to comment on that. I must say we are running out of time so I would just ask if we can have a brief answer.
MR. NEWLANDS: I can answer very briefly, we have no responsibility for the Shubenacadie Canal Commission. That is under Cultural Affairs.
DR. SMITH: And Fairbanks Centre did not get a grant?
MR. NEWLANDS: It has nothing to do with us.
DR. SMITH: Where would their grant come from, do you think?
MR. NEWLANDS: Cultural Affairs division within the Department of Tourism and Culture.
DR. SMITH: So that answers my question. I will pass over to the next person.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I was rather intrigued by the comments of my colleague, the member for Pictou East, who indicated the tremendous community support for the Museum of Industry in Pictou County. I took the occasion to review the last four fiscal years and I notice that with the exception of Sherbrooke Village, the Museum of Industry is the only museum in the province that did not receive donations. My question to Ms. McNabb is, if the museum receives that type of tremendous community support, why
isn't there any effort to solicit donations for that particular institution, given the rather substantive contributions to the other museums?
MS. MCNABB: We do accept donations and we have a donation box in our foyer. The situation we found ourselves in was our volunteer core got quite upset at the prospect of funds that they saw visitors donating to the Museum of Industry as a result of their experience at the Museum of Industry, that they might go into a general fund in Halifax for museums.
MR. MACKINNON: Is that the reason for no donations?
MS. MCNABB: No, there are donations.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, why don't they show up?
MS. MCNABB: Because they don't go into the Nova Scotia Museum's fund, they go into the Museum of Industry's general revenue account.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, would you provide the detail for your budget for this year, last year and actually . . .
MS. MCNABB: I don't have that information with me.
MR. MACKINNON: Will you give an undertaking to provide it?
MS. MCNABB: I can, yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Going back to the issue of policy, there are no criteria with regard to how you allot funding to these various museums. Have you ever made recommendations to senior officials in your department, at the deputy minister or minister level, for criteria for funding allotment? Just a yes or no would be fine.
MR. NEWLANDS: There are criteria. The criteria is the budget that they submit.
MR. MACKINNON: No, have you any written criteria by which people would be eligible for funding or not? Yes or no.
MR. NEWLANDS: All the museums listed on this sheet are eligible for funding.
MR. MACKINNON: That is not my question, sir. My question is, do you have any written criteria by which all these museums would qualify for funding? Yes or no.
MR. NEWLANDS: We have no criteria but we have procedures.
MR. MACKINNON: Have you made any recommendations in recent years to provide specific criteria? Yes or no.
MR. NEWLANDS: I don't feel at this point that we need criteria.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, so the answer is no?
MR. NEWLANDS: No. I must point out I have been Executive Director for nine days.
MR. MACKINNON: Do you know if anybody in the department has made recommendations before on this? Does anybody in the department know?
MS. BURLESON: What would you understand by criteria as applied to Nova Scotia Museum sites?
MR. MACKINNON: Written criteria, terms of reference by which a particular museum would qualify for funding? I mean, just an ad hoc, subjective approach where one institution would get a couple hundred thousand dollars and another get a thousand and the comparables seem rather disproportionate, it doesn't seem quite in line with good public policy.
MS. BURLESON: It has been my experience that when an institution has been considered to become part of the Nova Scotia Museum, that is the . . .
MR. MACKINNON: But do you have written criteria? Do you have any policy?
MS. BURLESON: If I may answer your question, sir. When an institution has come under consideration in the time of my career, there is an initial question around capital which is something that has to come from outside . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Would you provide that written detail to the committee?
MS. BURLESON: . . . and then there is the consideration around what will be the operating costs of this facility, should it become the province's responsibility and at that time, the team that is involved in considering the new site would deal with issues around reasonable operating costs.
MR. MACKINNON: Excuse me. Mr. Chairman, will the individual representing the department provide the written detail on what the process is, and the criteria? Yes or no?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Burleson, either you or Mr. Newlands, the request was if you would care to give us some additional information in writing about this process, that would be appreciated, that would be a big help. The time for . . .
MR. MACKINNON: They are shaking their heads, is that a yes? We have had reps before the committee before shake their heads and then not provide the information.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let's be clear. Mr. Newlands, is it possible to provide us with some additional information?
MR. NEWLANDS: I can certainly provide information as to the process by which we determine the budgets for our sites that form the Nova Scotia Museum.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine. Thank you very much. Now over to the PC caucus and I have Mr. Carey.
MR. JON CAREY: Our time is limited, but I am very enthused about the Greenwood Aviation Museum that recently opened with Bryan Nelson as the curator. I know they were open over Christmas and had a tremendous number of people pass through, but I was just wondering what the relationship between your department and the museum is as far as funding or input and your comments on that new facility.
MR. COLLINS: We work very closely with the Greenwood Aviation Museum, they have been part of our evaluation teams across the province. They have been on the board of the Federation of Nova Scotian Heritage. I have been to visit the site, you are right, it is quite an amazing site these days, thanks to Bryan Nelson. It is not part of the Nova Scotia Community Museum Assistance Program, nor is the Shearwater Aviation Museum. Both those museums receive support from the military museums across the country and so they are at this point exempt from funding through this program. They are able to find monies that other museums cannot find.
MR. CAREY: Thank you, I will pass to my colleague.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Barnet.
MR. BARRY BARNET: I will try to be quick too because we are running short on time, so if we could get brief answers, I would appreciate it. I have a number of questions.
With respect to user fees - the Opposition in this House has been pre-occupied with user fees lately - my question is, when did the Nova Scotia Museum system start charging user fees for visitors?
MS. BURLESON: I may be a bit off here. In 1993, the museum commissioned an earned income study to try to find out how we could increase our self-generated incomes. Part of that study contained recommendations about user fees which were implemented progressively over the three or four years following.
MR. BARNET: After 1993. How do we compare with other jurisdictions with respect to user fees for museums? I had the opportunity to visit museums across this country last summer and I know that some of them are for profit and some are non-profit. We attended the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and it was like $40. How do we compare to other jurisdictions?
MR. NEWLANDS: Last year we introduced for the first time an admission fee for the eight directly managed sites and it is $2.00. Just in case some people felt that was too much, if a person came and said they could not pay, since it was the first year, we gave them free admission.
MR. BARNET: Have you noticed any change or decline in attendance at the museums as a result of user fees?
MR. NEWLANDS: It is hard to isolate what factors cause a decline. Last year there was a levelling off and a slight decline in attendance in our museums as with other tourist sites. If there is - and this is only a hypothetical - a slight decline, it doesn't last. What we heard - and we did talk with the managers of our eight sites about the reaction - was that it was not a problem, very little objection, very little comment about it; $2.00 is not a large sum to pay.
MR. BARNET: My final point before I pass it over to my colleague. How much time do we have left?
MR. CHAIRMAN: About seven and a half minutes.
MR. BARNET: I will be quick. The general public really doesn't know the difference between a provincial museum and a federal museum. Often we receive calls and enquiries about Citadel Hill and Louisbourg and other Parks Canada-run museums. What kind of relationship does the Nova Scotia Museum have with Parks Canada in terms of promotion and marketing, and in terms of not trying to duplicate services that are being offered by one level of government over another? Is there a connection or intertwinement between the two departments?
MS. BURLESON: It is a connection that needs to be grown. It is imperfect at this point, I would say.
MR. BARNET: That is what I suspected. My final point is, is there some plan to try to bring the federal Parks Canada closer together in terms of a relationship with the Nova Scotia Museum?
MS. BURLESON: Yes, in specific instances where we think it could benefit both parties. The one that is most active right now is the Maritime Museum, strengthening its links with the Halifax Defence Complex, in terms of cross-marketing and doing more things together.
MR. BARNET: I will pass my remaining time over to my colleague.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Langille.
MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Just an observation, yesterday there was a tour ship in Halifax, with 700 tourists. I was wondering what you people did for marketing for those tourists to visit your museums here in Halifax.
MS. BURLESON: The Maritime Museum has been aggressive in bringing those kinds of visitors to its site. It has working partnerships with the cruise lines, and in particular the bus companies that pick up the cruise passengers. Starting this year, they will actually base in front of the Maritime Museum. That is the museum of choice for that type of visitor in the short time they have in Halifax.
MR. LANGILLE: How many other museums do you have in Halifax?
MS. BURLESON: In Halifax, we have the Museum of Natural History.
MR. LANGILLE: And that is it?
MS. BURLESON: For provincial sites, yes.
MR. LANGILLE: Did they visit that site yesterday? Are you aware of that?
MS. BURLESON: There was some visitation. Generally the Natural History Museum is the second or third choice for a tourist of the cruise-ship type. They come to us through personal reference from taxi drivers and things. The Museum of Natural History's main target audience is families and children, not the cruise ship crowd.
MR. LANGILLE: I had an opportunity to talk to a few tourists from that ship. They were not aware of the museum on the waterfront. I was surprised, because 700 tourists, you would think they would be targeted to visit these museums. When they didn't know about them, I was very surprised. I believe, with the tour ships coming in, maybe you people should
be more aggressive in showing what you have to offer and to target these people to visit your museums. This booklet here, is that made up by your department?
MR. COLLINS: I am responsible for that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: For the record, the reference was to Museums, Archives and other Heritage Resources 2000.
MR. LANGILLE: Who supplies you with the information in this booklet?
MR. COLLINS: We send letters to all those associations, museums and archives across the province every year, looking for their current information. We compile that information, both hard copy and on the Internet. We also ask the people who are already in the directory if they know of others who are not there, to please let us know.
MR. LANGILLE: I am just surprised, reading through it, that the Fraser Cultural Centre in Tatamagouche, there is no mention of Anna Swan in here, which is their main drawing card. She was the largest woman in the world . . .
MR. COLLINS: We are relying on their descriptions of their sites. We don't write those for them, they write them for us.
MR. LANGILLE: I guess that is what I am asking, you don't delete anything that they supply, do you?
MR. COLLINS: In fact, we do talk to them and suggest to them that there are ways to enhance what they do write. We are allowed to edit, we have that responsibility. You are correct, they should be talking about that.
MR. LANGILLE: I guess your answer leads me to another question. Do you help them out in marketing in any way, these privately-owned museums?
MR. COLLINS: We have, in the past, helped them market themselves in the Guide for Doers and Dreamers. We are embarking on a Strategic Development Initiative in Cape Breton with the Iona Connection people there. They are developing a Web page which will help tourists in Cape Breton go along the various trails to the museums there. We do work in other ways with them.
MR. LANGILLE: Also, I would like to bring to your attention that the find off Brule Point a while back regarding fossils, I notice that they are stored at this museum in the basement. Has there been any contact about preserving these fossils by your department?
MS. BURLESON: Oh yes, ongoing contact since the discovery. Staff at the Museum of Natural History have been there and advised on storage. There has been a triage performed to make sure that the best were kept and all the fossils have been individually accessioned, that is given museum numbers, and the collection data recorded. We await the community's decision on what it wishes to do in terms of interpretation of the fossils. There are a number of ideas floating around, but nothing has risen to the surface yet.
MR. LANGILLE: Also, the Debert Military Museum, which applied for assistance through you last year and was turned down. This military museum has artifacts of the Second World War and also the bunker where they provide tours, which is a period of the Cold War, I believe is very important to our history. Can anybody here tell me why they were turned down and not given a grant?
MR. COLLINS: Yes, I have worked with them. I have been there several times. We have also had people from the Colchester County Museum work with them in their cataloguing and other museum operations. The Debert Military Museum doesn't meet all the eligibility requirements set out in the policy for funding assistance. I have worked with them to address some of those issues. They have a relationship with the industrial estates there to use the bunker. It is not their bunker. They have one day where they give tours and I believe they get about $3,000 or $5,000 for those tours, which helps run that museum. My understanding is that bunker is not available to them this year, that it is to be sold, I believe, to a pharmaceutical company or a mushroom-growing company.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. The gentleman who just spoke indicated that it didn't meet the criteria. My understanding, from the previous two speakers, there were no criteria.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think there are two different things that are being discussed here. One is the assistance to community facilities and the other is - I thought your questions were directed to the Nova Scotia Museum complex itself. Was that your understanding, sir?
MR. NEWLANDS: What is listed here are the sites that belong to the Nova Scotia Museum. There are criteria for the Community Museum Assistance Program . . .
MR. MACKINNON: But not the provincial ones.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Can I just ask for a little clarification on something. When Mr. Carey was speaking to you, Mr. Collins, about the Greenwood Aviation Museum, I don't know if I heard the answer correctly. They are under consideration at the moment, is that what you said?
MR. COLLINS: No, I said that they have monies available through the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and that they, like Shearwater, don't have funding from this program.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you are not saying whether they do meet or don't meet the criteria. Have they applied? Is that what you said to Mr. Carey?
MR. COLLINS: No, they have not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: My understanding is that they might have some discussions with your minister. I hope that at least a response is being made to them. In any event, can I just draw the committee's attention to one point before we close up. You will see at the bottom of today's sheet that next week's session is listed as taking place in the Committees Office; that is not correct, it will be here in the Chamber.
That being said, our time is up for today. I would like to thank our witnesses very much for having come and spoken with us. It was a very interesting session. Thank you for your help, and we look forward to receiving the additional information we asked for. Take care of yourselves.
We stand adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:05 a.m.]