Museum proposed for old Mindemoya school

Mindemoya Old School

MINDEMOYA—A proposal from the Central Manitoulin Historical Society to investigate the possibility of using the Old School building in Mindemoya as a museum has received a positive response from the municipal finance and economic development committee.

“We had a finance and economic development meeting last night,” Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens said last Friday.

“The committee was presented with a proposal from the historical society looking for approval to use the municipal economic development officer for research into funding and steps to convert the Old School into a museum.”

“As we (council) have said previously, we would like groups and individuals in the community to bring forward viable options for use of the building,” said Mayor Stephens. “The historical society is looking for help to make applications for funding grants, bringing the building up to standards. This research work could be done this winter.”

“A recommendation was made by the committee to be considered by council for authorization to use the municipal EDO to do this research,” said Mayor Stephens. 

Mary Lochead, of the Central Manitoulin Historical Society, said, “the reason we made our presentation is that the historical society really needs a place to display and store items. We have a little room at the Welcome Centre, which we appreciate, but we need more room. We are asking council to consider using the old school building as a museum, or at least some of the building for this purpose.”

“The idea is for a museum to be moved into the Old School building and saving the school,” said Mrs. Lochead. “It’s big enough for each community within the municipality to have its own space in the museum for displays and artifacts.”

“Thank you for allowing us to come to this meeting to present to you our thoughts about the future of the Mindemoya Continuation School,” said Mrs. Lochead in the presentation to the committee.” She and her husband, “have been members of the historical society for several years now. When we attended the historical society meeting in August this year, we observed that the same urgent needs were expressed as had been for several years before. These needs include more display area, climate controlled storage area and funding for a curator.”

“I came away feeling very concerned that here was an enthusiastic, industrious group of volunteer people who were becoming tired and discouraged because no answer to their problems seemed readily available in the near future. They are getting older and they wondered who would come along to continue their work when they were unable to do it,” said Mrs. Lochead.

“Since 1976, numerous volunteers of the historical society have given many, many hours of their time and energy, collecting and displaying artifacts. They have acquired and maintained the log cabin and barns containing articles depicting pioneer living,” continued Mrs. Lochead. “In addition, they have helped financially to build the Welcome Centre and have assisted in the supervision of the summer students. They have recorded and digitized over 7,500 items from Campbell, Carnarvon and Sandfield townships. Each summer, they create new displays in the Welcome Centre using only a few of these artifacts, but there are a great many more artifacts stored upstairs that should also be on display. The work of these volunteers greatly enhances both the museum and the Welcome Centre, making the centre a pleasant place to visit.”

“The present space in the Welcome Centre is greatly appreciated,” said Mrs. Lochead. “However, we feel so much more could be done to share the many artifacts we have collected with the community and our visitors and to preserve them properly for future generations. A larger exhibition area is needed and would be beneficial to display the many items collected. Also, the storage area on the second floor of the Welcome Centre is not very suitable for the museum’s needs. It is not climate controlled and we are concerned that this condition may cause deterioration of the artifacts if they are stored there much longer. Additionally, the very steep stairs make it difficult to carry items up there.”

“Then, I thought of the Mindemoya Continuation School,” said Mrs. Lochead. “The school came to mind and I thought it would be a perfect solution for a museum. There will be ample space in the school building for displays and climate controlled storage, for all parts of Central Manitoulin-Providence Bay, Spring Bay, Mindemoya, Big Lake and Sandfield, if they want to take advantage of this opportunity.”

“In addition, the building itself is historically significant,” continued Mrs. Lochead. “Then a walk around and through the building was arranged and all those who were there were surprised to see the excellent condition of it, both inside and outside. Hal Love was present with us on the walk through and has graciously given us a report of his observations. Definitely, as we all can see, the roof is in very poor condition and needs immediate attention.”

“For these reasons, we are asking you to work with us to develop a plan to save the school for use as a museum,” said Mrs. Lochead. “It is indeed a beautiful building, and with a well-designed museum inside, it could become a great attraction—bringing people to Central Manitoulin.”

“We understand that money is the big issue for all these things. We also realize there is an immediate need for a new roof on the school, but perhaps other repairs could be done later as needed. In order to keep this building from becoming damaged over the winter, could you please consider roofing the school this fall and keeping the heat maintained at a minimum level this winter?”

Some funding may be available, in grants, donations and fundraising events, but it will take some time to get these in place,” said Mrs. Lochead. “We need your help and expertise to investigate this situation to find ways to raise funds to keep this significant and outstanding building as a museum for all townships of Central Manitoulin.”

“We hope that you will consider the needs of the museum and embrace our suggestions so that together we can build a museum that will make all of Central Manitoulin proud,” added Mrs. Lochead.

While the committee has recommended to council to allow the Historical Society use of the services of the EDO for the paperwork that needs to be carried out this winter, Mayor Stephens explained, “the building will be closed at the end of October for the winter. But this would allow the Historical Society to have a game plan by spring and provide this information to council. Our thought has always been we have an asset here and if someone came forward with a viable way to use the building we would definitely look at it.”