The Niagara Historical Museum, founded in 1875 and housing one of the finest collections of early Canadian artifacts and archives in the most historic town in Canada, is outgrowing its space.
Sarah Maloney Kaufman, managing director and curator of the museum, was at Monday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday to reveal plans for an $8-million expansion project, and a rebranding of the museum, which councillors heard will be called the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.
They were at the meeting to share their good news, and also to ask for support to go along with an application for a federal infrastructure grant that would cover 73 per cent of the cost of the project. “This grant is crucial,” she said.
“Visitors today are treated with one of the most extensive collections, reflecting the history of one of the oldest settlements in Ontario,” she said.
“As our collection continuously grows each year and our public programs expand, space is becoming limited. Our collections storage and general storage spaces are near capacity.”
About 80 public programs a year must be held within the museum’s galleries, or outside the courtyard, due to a lack of proper programming space, she said.
Also propelling the project is the need to accommodate the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, by 2025, she said.
In 2014, the museum hired a consulting company to determine whether the facilities meet current and future needs, and they do not, she said, nor do they meet accessibility requirements.
In 2016 they hired an architectural company to develop drawings to show renovated space, and also meet the recommended strategy to address the museum’s needs, which is an addition behind Memorial Hall, a new basement under Memorial Hall, a second floor to the Link Building, and a renovation of the existing facilities.
“We have not expanded since the 1970s, so this project is long overdue,” said Kaufman.
The expansion will increase square footage from 10,107 square feet to 18,349 square feet, an increase of 8,242 square feet, she said.
“This will make our museum fully accessible with an elevator, access hallways and a universal bathroom. It will add a community space of 1,404 square feet for our needs, and also for community groups.”
There will also be dedicated research space so the collection can be more accessible, and an increase to storage for collections. The expansion will allow for increased exhibition space, a fire suppression system — which the museum doesn’t have — a better layout for visitor services, and the ability to rent space.
The project is shovel-ready, she said. They have added $2 million to their fundraising goal for programming and for an endowment fund, and hired a company to begin their fundraising campaign.
Councillors agreed to her request for a letter of support, a decision which will be ratified at Monday’s council meeting.