KAGAWONG—The Billings Old Mill Heritage Centre in Kagawong is eagerly looking forward to reopening its doors come June 30, becoming one of the first Island museums to reopen in the pandemic era.
“Breaking news!” offers Old Mill Heritage Centre curator Rick Nelson in a call to The Expositor. “The Old Mill Heritage Centre in Kagawong is planning to reopen on July 1, operating Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.”
Mr. Nelson admitted that “operating this summer may be a challenge, but we really wish to support our community.” He noted that the Billings township museum committee wrestled with how the museum could safely operate under COVID-19 guidelines and said they are confident that a workable solution had been found. Under Ontario’s phase two reopening process, the museum is now able to open, under strict conditions.
“I was worried that facilities such as museums would be among the very last to be able to reopen, but things are starting to loosen up a bit sooner than I thought they might,” admitted the curator. “The museum committee has worked hard to create an atmosphere that will allow us to serve the community safely.”
“This includes a new entrance in order not to interfere with people going into the municipal office,” said Mr. Nelson. “Our new entrance will be on the south side of the building facing the beach.”
Previously, the museum shared an entrance to the building that would not have worked well for physical distancing, he noted.
Although the museum itself will be open, with a limited number of patrons (10) allowed inside at a time, the ancillary Old Post Office building will remain closed for the season. Sanitization will be a key part of the new reality.
Mr. Nelson stressed that the precautions and safety measures that will be in place are still “a work in progress,” but he added that he was confident that the museum will still be able to offer a unique and enjoyable view into the Billings community’s history and heritage.
“We may very well be the only museum to open this summer,” mused Mr. Nelson, noting that in a canvas he conducted recently the museums in South Baymouth, Central Manitoulin, Gore Bay, Meldrum Bay and the interpretive centre in Misery Bay would remain closed for the season. “The trails at Misery Bay will be open, but not the interpretive centre. As for Assiginack and NEMI, I understand the verdict is still out,” he said.
NEMI has since resolved to open the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah on the same date.
“We have rescheduled our hours as well,” said Mr. Nelson. “Instead of a seven day a week schedule, we will be operating on a five-day schedule, Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm, closed Monday and Tuesday.”
Mr. Nelson noted that it is inevitable that revenues will be down this year, given the likelihood of reduced tourist traffic and the restrictions on US travellers and the cancellation of this year’s History Day in Kagawong fundraiser at the Park Centre, but the curator encouraged people to continue to help support Old Mill Heritage Centre through donations to help keep the region’s heritage secure.
“Further details to follow,” he advised, “and as always, check out our website at KagawongMusuem.ca and follow the donation link to help us keep the history going. Thanks!”