Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Brandon's new city museum (Part 1)

I've been blogging a lot about Brandon history of late and that's because the Wheat City's built heritage has been on a bit of a roll.

Clockwise from top left: Former CP Depot; Parkland Building at former mental health site; Mackenzie Building; Massey Block; Heritage Brandon website; Dominion Display Building.

Let's take stock of the past few months: Expansion of Assiniboine Community College's programming at the former Brandon Mental Health Centre site continues; the conversion of the former Massey Harris Building into assisted housing is entering the home stretch; plans are afoot to convert the MacKenzie Building into housing; the launch of a Heritage Brandon website; new life for the former CP Station and seed money start renos of the Dominion Display Building.

That's not too shabby for a city that I've poo-pood on in years past about their lack of interest in their urban history.

Now it's time to add another project to the list: an urban museum !

The Brandon General Museum and Archive Inc. was created in 2007 by Brandon City Council with a mandate to "collect, conserve, study, exhibit and interpret historic and heritage materials relating to the city." Over the years the tires have been kicked on a number of possible locations but it wasn't until April 7, 2011 that a location was announced.

Former Government Telephones Building, Brandon Manitoba

The museum will be located on the main floor of the former Government Telephones / Paragon Lofts Building at 19 - 9th Street. They take possession on May 1 and will have the museum open by summer. The space and timing won't permit for an archives for now.

If you want to support the project memberships are $25 and there is a fundraising dinner coming up on May 12th.

Congratulations to the board and other volunteers. This will add to a number of great museums already in the area.

Former Government Telephones Building, Brandon

I can't let this pass without hauling out an old, dead horse and administer another beating to it.

I've blogged a few times before (including here and here) about the need for a Winnipeg urban museum. With our rich history it's a shame that most of it is left to sit in boxes in a leaky building. Maybe we can learn a lesson from Brandon.

For more Brandon history stuff:
Hillman's Brandon Archive Site
Heritage Brandon
Brandon History on eBrandon


One Man Committee said...

I couldn't agree more. The Manitoba Museum is a great museum - but it's about Manitoba.

Winnipeg has an intriguing history and it would be great to spotlight it in a facility of its own. It doesn't have to be something grandiose - even a modest sized heritage building like some of the ones that are unused/underused on the northern edges of the Exchange District would be fine.

Colin said...

It should be noted that the Brandon museum space is temporary -- a $60K grant from the city allowed this to happen.

And I hate to be a negative nelly, but the space - while a beautiful building - is not well suited to be a museum. The large, beautiful windows that let in all that glorious natural light...will be covered with a UV film to avoid damaging the exhibits. And many archives still will not be able to be displayed, due to that reason.

It's nice to see it happen, but I have to wonder, with all the many vacant heritage buildings nearby, this one was chosen.

mrchristian said...

I agree that the space is not optimal and the person that emailed me back said that there will be no archives for now, which is too bad.

Still, I think it's a positive step. A lot of projects never get off the ground / take years longer to come about / cause ill will because they have a 'shoot for the stars' mentality right off the hop.

Sometimes a stepped approach is the best. If they can get this scale open and can demonstrate the value of such a facility they can, in turn, use it as a case to fund raise for something bigger, better and more permanent.

Colin said...

Did I mention there's no handicapped or seniors' entrance? "Those" people have to venture down a grimy back alley to check this place out...but hey, it's not like seniors like going to museums, right?

There's a distressing tendency in small town projects to dither and run out the clock, and then at the last minute do anything, regardless of how ill-advised, just to say you're "getting it done."
I'm fully for a museum and it's long, long overdue. But given the (appalling) surplus of vacant buildings downtown, I can't help but think this is a disservice in the long run. I would love to be proven wrong.

Ruth Zaryski Jackson said...

Congratulations Brandon!! Does anyone know what's happened to the Brandon Mental Asylum Museum and archives which used to be in the old buildings?