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President's Report by Sheila Hastie

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A lot of special things happened
at the Eva Brook Donly Museum
in the year 2000.

We have completed two major projects that have changed the face of the Museum both inside and out. The results and visitor response have been all we hoped they would be. These are the Millennium and Centennial projects. The details and the partners involved are described elsewhere in this report.

As you come in the main entrance, there is on one wall a map of Old Norfolk County, made by Albert Potts, highlighted with reproduced historic W. E. Cantelon paintings of Norfolk villages On the other wall, with the Second Century Founders Circle donors plaque, are two new holders for brochures. This work was all done by member volunteers.

Many events, displays and activities, both routine and otherwise, have taken place over the year and all staff, including our housekeeper and student curators and the volunteers are to be thanked for their time and efforts to make these successful. They are not always in the limelight, often in the background, but are essential members of teams that work together for the museum.

One notable event was the reception for the recognition of the Second Century Founders Circle. Many of the donors to this vital capital fund attended and the donors' plaque was unveiled by Virginia Moore. Hugh Jackson, a former Director, and the initiator of the Second Century Capital Fund, to celebrate the Society's centenary, was given an honorary life membership for his many contributions over the years. A special guest was sculptor Alec Godden, who made the birds each founder received.

This endeavour is not closed. Capital donations will continue to be accepted to this fund and donors recognized on the wall plaque.

Children's events are run largely by our student curators and draw good response in vacation time. We are still attracting crowds to our Garden Tour and look forward to another great one this year. Norfolklore brings dozens of exhibitors and hundreds of visitors to town for a day of research and information gathering. It's a great place to meet strangers looking for your ancestors.

I would like to give credit and thanks to the team of dedicated NHS Directors who meet each month, many of them more often, to make decisions on matters crucial to the operation of the Museum. I greatly appreciate the support and guidance they have given me over the past two years. We welcomed two new directors last fall, Colleen Adams and Elaine Fraser, who have already made significant contributions, both in advice and committee involvement.

A past president, Ruth Loughton, resigned from the Board during the year after many years of dedicated service. Some years ago Ruth was responsible for recognizing the need for concern and change in the manner of operating the museum. Signs of the decrease in revenues that seemed to flow in, without effort on the Museum's part were becoming obvious. And since then, conditions for receiving various grants for summer students, operating funds or projects have become even more stringent.

Treasurer Peter Pirie and our Office Manager are able to supply very detailed accounts of the revenues and expenses. With input from committee chairs, Peter forecasts, as closely as possible, our budget for the ensuing year. It becomes a greater challenge each year to raise the funds to meet the expenses that are necessary, so it is vital that our costs are justifiable in every instance.

Two other directors, Ron Judd and Albert Potts, have also left the Board. They were both very involved in the building of the Alligator Tug which is now located on the Lynn River in Simcoe. The contributions to the Board of all these directors will be missed but it is reassuring to know that they will stay involved in other fields of activity within the Society.

Special thanks again this year to Bob Ryerse and his Bingo team, his wife Barb, Jay and Irene McKiee and Ron Hemsley. Others rotate but these volunteers are always there. This is still the greatest fund raiser for the Society, although the income gets a bit less each year with the arrival of casinos in the area.

Richard Campbell has taken over from Hugh Jackson with his computer expertise and is also redesigning our web site. Watch for it!

Special events in 2000 were organized by Karen Culver who finished the year with a new concept for our Christmas event; putting the family into the Mulkins'' House, music in the gallery and bringing in a new collection of Cantelon paintings to the museum. This involved many volunteers, members and others, providing an evening of great entertainment.

And what of the future?

We look forward to a much closer working relationship with the other museums in the new Norfolk County.

Because of the continuing interest in family history, we can be assured that our archives will continue to be well used.

Our big challenge is still The Old Mulkins'' House, the focus of the museum. This is the finest, fully-furnished museum house in this  area of the province and yet it still seems to be the best kept secret in town! It should be a major drawing card for us but it remains largely unappreciated.

We hope we have the answer!

We have been fortunate in obtaining an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to hire a new staff member, a Program Manager and Historical Interpreter for a period of two years.

The creation of this position is to develop programs for adults and young people that will centre around the mid 19th century house and its contents, the social history, hardships and advantages of living in such a house, in Simcoe, at that time.

As well, this job will entail motivating a team of volunteers who will become involved in the program in various ways, and training them to run the program on their own eventually.

Hopefully, these new programs will generate more visitors, especially groups to tour or come for workshops, which in turn will bring in more and much-needed revenue. Ideally, we would hope for sufficient funds coming in to make this a permanent position, at least on a part-time basis, after the initial two years.

The important issue is a new outlook on marketing the museum. We, who have lived with it all along, have grown too accustomed to things as they are. And, we have not succeeded in marketing our assets even to our members. This new staff member could make the difference!

Since 2001 has been designated "The Year of the Volunteer," it is very appropriate that we have this fresh challenge for our members to become active in a new area of interest in the museum.

It is increasingly more difficult for venues such as museums to attract visitors these days. There is a need to redesign our image for those individuals and families looking for ideal leisure activities.

A recent 'museums and leisure' research showed that museums were considered to be "educational discovery places, thought provoking, fascinating, intellectual experiences" and other similar descriptions.

That sounds great, doesn't it? Just what we are aiming for! But -- when the same people were asked what leisure activities they sought and participated in most frequently, the picture was somewhat different. The response was ... "eating out, exercising and playing sports, visiting parks and gardens, theatre or cinema and attending sports venues."

The attributes they were looking for were ... relaxed atmosphere, entertaining, good for the whole family, friendly and Fun

There is obviously a difference in what museums are perceived as offering and what people are looking for. But many museums would argue that they are offering what the consumer is seeking: they are fun, they are exciting and their are family places.

Our museum marketing is failing to capitalize on these attributes although the opportunity is there. We can offer great value for the whole family ... discover the fun...

We want this to happen here! It is a rare opportunity to have a new staff member with a broad vision and a different perspective, seeing the Mulkins'' house for the first time and being able to formulate ideas without the encumbrances of familiarity restricting them.

Seeing the forest through the trees. Our future depends on it.


Click Pic

Founders Plaque

Hugh and Sheila

UEL Mural