How Do You Fund a Museum: The Human Engine

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How Do You Fund a Museum: The Human Engine

Article by: Ron Haycock, Jim Barrett and Lena Beliveau

The tipping point came when the College’s Museum Committee became the new Heritage and Museum Committee. At one stroke we became responsible for more than the care and display of artifacts. Heritage is a big word, and that responsibility created a whole new playing field.

The more the Heritage and Museum Committee thought about it, the more we saw that a significant part of our new mandate is to make the story of RMC and the Canadian Service Colleges- cadets, ex-cadets, military and civilian staff, and also Point Frederick itself- easily available to the public, so that they may see the contribution the Colleges and the Point has made in the building of Canada.

Once the Committee grasped the enormity of its new task, and understood the value and sheer immensity of the inventory of holdings, then there was only one rational direction forward: a new museum with a professional staff!

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Think of the Heritage and Museum Committee as one part of the human engine that drives the RMC Museum project. That ‘engine’ has three other parts. One vital part is the group of committed volunteers who, by cataloguing artifacts, preserving archival documents, by serving as tour guides, and pitching in on various collection management projects, have kept the vision alive. From 1962, through long and lean years, only the commitment of 2859 Jack Pike, now Chairman Emeritus, and those dedicated volunteers sustained the RMC Museum. In 1991 a sympathetic Commandant, 4459 Cmdre Ed Murray, provided professional Museum staff. That was 8057 Ross McKenzie, or strictly speaking half of Ross McKenzie. The other half worked for the Registrar. Ross became the full-time curator in 2006, and retired to become Curator Emeritus in 2015.

Today, thanks in part to the efforts of the Friends of Point Frederick, the RMC Museum has a more muscular professional staff. Our new Curator, Lena Beliveau ( e-Veritas), is supported by an Assistant Curator, Ashley Mendes (e-Veritas). Both have formal credentials in museum management, and broad prior experience, some of it at the College. They draw on every bit of that expertise, developing exhibits, managing the collections, and responding to surprisingly frequent research requests. Lena is of course responsible for most of the administration, and assigning the daily work tasks, while Ashley assists the Curator and attends to the development and delivery of programs. Both are fluent in social media and, as time permits, work on the Websites. And they cheerfully cope with the turmoil accompanying the closure of Fort Frederick Tower.

Ideally, the current RMC Museum should also have a full time Program Director who, in addition to supervising program development and delivery, will take responsibility for social media, websites and outreach. The proposed RMCC Museum will add to that an Administrative Coordinator, to coordinate volunteers, events, room reservations and to manage the gift shop.

A museum can be a magical place.

Whether we make a short or a long visit to a museum, we expect to come away with new insight, new understanding- not much older but definitely wiser. For many, it’s more personal. We who have spent time at RMC, RRMC or CMR can find connection to events of national and international significance. We can show that connection to our children, to our family and to our friends. But the magic doesn’t happen by itself. It must be carefully managed by committed volunteers, like Jack Pike and the Friends of Point Frederick, and dedicated professionals, like Ross and now Lena and Ashley. To get some sense of the span of the challenge that they face, take a look at the websites of the museums of some other famous national military academies: West Point, Annapolis and St Cyr, the French military academy (bilingual site).

There is one remaining part of the human engine. That is us, the greater RMC family and friends, who, through our financial and material support, will bring this dream to reality.

At last count we have seven comments reacting to Chapter 4. We continue to be heartened by the wave of support and indebted too for the thoughtful differing views. As usual, send comments, questions and other feedback to [email protected] or leave a comment in the box below.

Thanks for reading.


 Previous articles on the subject:

The Friends of Point Frederick: Why do we need a new building?

The Friends of Point Frederick: ‘Taking on a big task’

Making the Case

How do you fund a museum?