Corner Brook — If there is a gap in the province’s regional museum system, it is in Western Newfoundland, says the minister responsible.
Whether that leads to a commitment of expansion to the west coast, or acceptance of either of the concepts to bring affiliation of The Rooms to Corner Brook, remains to be seen.
Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Terry French acknowledged western is the only main region in the province without a component of The Rooms.
“There is no secret, just by looking alone, if there is a gap in the current system it would certainly be the west coast,” French said. “But we have to look at it from a provincial perspective. But, right now, to be totally honest and frank with you, if there is an expansion to The Rooms, the obvious choice would be the west coast.”
The minister said there are many factors to consider beyond having a presence throughout the province. The primary concern appears to be cost. French said nearly $2 million is spent annually on the regional museum system and another $9 million annually on The Rooms Corporation.
“Every time we grow our regional museum system, it comes at a significant cost,” he said. “The Rooms brand has gone to a new level, I like to think, when it comes to preserving our culture and heritage, and we would not want to see it slighted in any way. If that was the move to go, we would want to do it first class and first class only.”
To achieve that, that would come with strict conditions, including environmental issues, pertaining to the location of such a facility.
The volunteer board of the Corner Brook Museum and Archives has long been trying to achieve sustainable funding and gain affiliation with The Rooms. It’s most recent proposal is to relocate permanently to the R.A. Pollett Building at the port. Now, the city has joined the lobbying effort, requesting The Rooms expansion to the west coast to a space in the new city hall building.
The provincial government recently completed a review of its regional museum system, so that it would have a process and criteria in place to evaluate such proposals. French said he don’t think that would hinder the proposals in any way, but acknowledged it would require a major capital expenditure.
He estimated the cost to open a regional museum under The Rooms Corporation in Corner Brook to be between $2 million and $3 million, with an annual operating budget between $400,000 and $500,000.
“It is a big commitment,” he said. “I’m a guy in this department who promotes culture and our heritage and do what we can to preserve it, but there is a fiscal responsibility you have to play as well.”
There are regional museums on the east coast, central, Burin Peninsula, and another in Labrador. French said the system has expanded over time.
“I don’t think anybody meant to exclude the west coast, the west coast obviously has done very well over the last number of years,” he said. “It is all about the local people’s priorities and what’s the need in the area.”
He said he couldn’t speak about what next week’s budget may or may not contain, but he did say the provincial government is in a period of fiscal restraint.
The Western Star