How do you fund a museum?

How do you fund a museum?

Chapter I: We’re building a Museum

More than two years ago, “We” began a project to build a new Museum for RMC, a project that will inevitably bring demands for a lot of money, and one that has provoked a lot of questions. “Why?” is close to the top of the list, and “Where’s the money going to come from?” close behind. We hope that in this series of three articles, to appear bi-weekly in e-Veritas, we can answer some of these questions and stimulate interest in a project that will fill a growing and a pressing need for our College.

The e-Veritas forum is a good one for our purpose, since it allows for personal contact and interaction in almost-real time. This will become, we hope, the beginning of a larger dialogue that will attract creative ideas and practical suggestions that, combined with our consultant’s report, will help us build a facility to represent this College as we all might wish. Send questions, comments and criticisms to us at [email protected]. We’ll be able to respond to some of them in following articles, but all will receive the attention of the Heritage and Museum Committee and will get a response.

“We” are the Heritage and Museum Committee of the Royal Military College of Canada, a committee constituted under the Commandant. The legacy of the Committee dates from the early 1920s. Established by then Commandant Sir Archibald Macdonell, it acquired more concrete organization and permanency in the early 1960s. We are retired officers, retired professors, serving officers of the College, a Club representative and a distinguished representative from the larger community. But it doesn’t stop there. From time to time the Committee brings in specialists for advice on the Museum’s development and other matters.

The active Committee members are:

4459 Ed Murray (Chair), 3572 Frank Norman (Secretary), 5992 Jim Barrett, Lena Beliveau (Curator), G146 Brigid Dooley-Tremblay, 5256 Gwyn Griffith (RMC Club Representative), G1628 Maj John Grodzinski (Academic Wing Representative), Col Steve Hall (RMCC Deputy Commandant), S124 Ron Haycock (Vice Chair), CWO Garth Hoegi (College CWO), Zenith Keeping, Kelly Lupton (Deputy Manager Personnel Support Program RMCC), 21334 LCol Annie Metivier (RMCC Director of Support Services), S149 Peter Milliken, and 5300 Bob Thomas.

Our mission is to identify, support, guide, advise and protect the heritage and history of the Royal Military College of Canada and Point Frederick. Among its many roles, the Committee’s focus is the Museum. And our mission is best described in the mandate of the Museum which “is to serve the College’s cadets, alumni, students, faculty and staff as well as the public, by collecting, researching and interpreting the heritage, history and contributions of the Royal Military College of Canada through the experiences of the Colleges’ cadets, alumni, students, faculty and staff. Through its broad exhibitions, learning programs and events, the Museum educates and informs the broader public and provides learning and leadership opportunities for Cadets.”   The Museum will also interpret the military history of the site during the prehistorical and colonial periods, and its natural history from its earliest times.

Why a new Museum? Why now? Briefly, though the Museum is thriving, it is in a stateof crisis. There are four crucial and urgent factors here: Fort Frederick has been closed for badly needed repairs while the collection has grown far beyond what Fort Frederick can sustain. Even when repaired the old Fort will never meet the necessary environmental conditions of a professional museum. It is not located where the public has easy access, nor will it meet modern accessibility requirements. Finally, “We” have long had a growing sense that our collection is not meeting its potential to tell RMC’s story.  Succeeding commandants have shared this concern, and so the Museum Project was activated under the direction of 16888 MGen Al Meinzinger and it continues under the direction of 16855 BGen Sean Friday.

Raising the roughly $13,000,000 required is clearly going to be a challenge.  There is no expectation that the Department of National Defence will fund construction of a new Museum, and a capital project of this magnitude is a far reach for the RMC Foundation, focussed on direct support to cadets.  So the Friends of Point Frederick, a registered charity affiliated neither with DND nor the College, has undertaken the task of fundraising, and will solicit contributions beyond the RMC family. The Friends’ mandate includes support for a museum; they already have an active presence on Point Frederick, as they provide funding for the curatorial assistant in the College Museum and fund the Museum website as well as purchase key items for the collections.

Progress to date can be summarized very briefly:

The Commandant has approved the idea that building a new museum is an integral part of the strategic development plan for the College.

The  project  has already received a major financial commitment from an individual demonstrating  the acceptance  of the  need to build a new professional  facility and the willingness  to support  its plan.

Lord Cultural Resources (the major consultant in the creation of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa) has produced a definitive plan for a new RMC Museum and that report has been accepted by the Commandant.   (A Synopsis of Lord Report appears in this issue – Following read more…).

To show the incredible quality and the great variety of the RMC collection, we’ve published a photo and historical narrative catalogue of selections from our Museum’s holdings, most of which has not been seen by the public. RMC Treasures : Selections from the Museum  of the Royal Military College of Canada is stunning  in its 143 pages. It is available from the RMC Club (Panet House)  gift shop.

An article on Museum Matters was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Veritas, with a follow-on article to appear in the Winter 2016 issue.

The following websites provide additional information about the RMC Museum, and the Friends of Point Frederick:

This issue of e-Veritas has the first two of four Chapters describing the Museum project.  Chapter 2 focusses on the need for RMC to make its case. Chapter 3, to appear in two weeks, will, depending to some extent on the response to this chapter, focus on our approach to a population that, while centered on the RMC Community, extends widely beyond that community. The final chapter will appear in approximately four weeks. It is, tentatively, shaped around practical details of the funding plan, the construction plan, the sustainment plan, and the proposed use of both the physical space and human resources the new Museum will provide.

Chapter 2, Making the Case, follows.

Read more…

How do you fund a Museum? 

Chapter 2: Making the Case

The College has never been good at telling its story, never been good at making its case beyond its ex-cadets, never good enough at building that wider community of support that a small, specialized institution needs. In this sense, the Royal Military College is a vulnerable institution, often cloistered and ever hostage to the political winds or to that constituency within the Canadian Armed Forces that finds military education unnecessary, or at least unnecessarily expensive. What will happen to this fine institution when we of the old establishment have to gone to ground, have gone elsewhere, or have just gone, will depend on how much the citizens of an emerging Canadian society are willing to preserve this unique institution. How will they learn about the RMC? Who will tell them? And how can we tell them?

Those who crowd the College grounds during Reunion Weekend or on Graduation Day are believers, for the most part because they are graduates or families of graduates.  They know that this is an exceptional place with a proud record. But they are a small group compared to Canadian society. Those who have no special connection to the College know little and can so easily form a false impression. All too quickly they can see the College as an anachronism. We “insiders” know that the continuance of nineteenth century dress and drills reflects the persistence of important traditions and values.  These are timeless and we share them easily with the Old Eighteen and those who taught them. But to move beyond the parade square, to spend more than a few hours to grasp the breadth and depth of the modern College is an opportunity available to very few.  And as for the very many, they often baulk at going beyond the secure Commissionaires Gate.  And so the story is never told.

For more than 140 years there have been the ‘nay-sayers’. More than one distinguished visitor has spoken in Currie Hall, on matters of deep significance to this institution, on shared values that seem increasingly rare in our nation, and subsequently pronounced that the money lavished on RMC could be better spent elsewhere. There are indeed arguments to be made for closing this institution, arguments that appear nearly every decade. They may be thin but they are dangerous. There are better arguments to be made to maintain it. We, the members of the RMC family and friends, are the keepers of those good arguments for preserving and sustaining this wonderfully rich corner of the Canadian fabric. But RMC must have a better ‘public persona’. The question is how we achieve it.

It is very hard to get to know a place, to understand its worth, in a day. But for the sake of the College, and for the good of the country, we need to try.  This ‘public persona’ cannot be created from nothing more than an insider’s appreciation of self. It needs substance, organization and exposure.   A well-run and well-visited Museum will be a tremendous asset in that effort. We are all aware of how the new Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has articulated and moulded the public view of the nation’s rich military past, of Canada as a fighting nation and its sacrifices; we also know how it helped increase the general public’s sympathy with our contemporary military, long hidden away on remote bases or out of the country.

Spending a day in a new RMC Museum will, of course, not solve all or be enough. Nevertheless, it will go a long way to reveal our military trajectory. A visit there will make us think, not only of the past but also about the arc of the future. It will help explain what a military should be in a democratic society –a comfortable and accepted element of the Canadian fabric, one which displays its value and contribution in making our nation. The new RMCC Museum and Welcoming Center must be more than a warehouse for old treasures and cherished memories.   If run professionally with an eye on the ‘persona’ and with adequate support, museums don’t wear out. They are timeless connectors when the ‘family and friends’ are gone.  Our new Museum must also provoke us to think about this institution’s significance for Canada’s future. Beyond the past glories, it must display the present utility and the future promise of Canada’s national university. It must answer the questions: How did RMC serve Canada yesterday? How is RMC serving Canada now? What will Canada need RMC for tomorrow?

Thanks for reading. Post comments below or send to [email protected]. See you in two weeks.







In 2016 The Friends of Point Frederick (The Friends), through the Royal Military College of Canada, commissioned a feasibility study of a project to build a new museum for the College.  The study was carried out by Lord Cultural Resources, a highly regarded company that has conducted 2000 museum planning projects in over 50 countries and on six continents. The study took place over six months, with site visits and extensive consultation with the College, its Heritage and Museum Committee, the Friends, the RMC Club and the RMC Foundation.  The study was accepted in September 2016.

A comparative analysis was conducted of the museums at the United States Military Academy (West Point), the United States Naval Academy and The United States Air Force Academy.  Attention was paid to their ancillary roles as visitors’ centres in addition to their traditional roles of conserving and presenting artifacts relating to the history of the institutions. The national profiles of the Academies, the size of alumnae populations, the visitor experiences and the siting of the Museums were examined to provide a basis comparison with RMC’s requirements and capacities.

In Kingston, an examination of the roles and impact of Fort Henry (a National Historic Site) and the Military Communications and Electronics Museum was conducted.  The latter was reluctant to provide financial information but it was possible to establish a baseline for comparative purposes.


An analysis of the attendance and areas of interest of visitors to the Museum was conducted. Significant conclusions were that the existing site in the Fort Frederick Martello tower, while interesting, precluded easy access because of its location within the security perimeter of the College. The summer season and lack of school programmes limited attendance. In the latter case, it was noted that school curricula from elementary through high school grades in Social Studies, History and Geography have a natural association with Museum visits. Links with the Tourist Information Centre and the associated Trolley Tour were also seen as positive with the potential to be expanded.

The College itself has not been significant as a source of visitors as the Museum is not open during the academic year and thus has had no role as a part of the educational process of the College.

A detailed analysis was done of the potential local and visitor markets. It was noted that many of the visitors have some prior knowledge of the College but only 10% of visitors are actually from the Kingston area. Increasing this proportion was seen as important, not only to directly expand the number of visits, but also to generate word-of-mouth support for family and friends to bring visitors from other locations.


The recommended Vision Statement is:

The RMC Museum honours the history, heritage and traditions of the Royal Military college of Canada. It promotes understanding of the College and its role in the life of the nation past and present and fosters appreciation for, and understanding of, the contributions of its Cadets, students, alumni, faculty and staff in times of war and peace.

The recommended Mission Statement is:

The Mission of the Museum of the RMCC is to collect, conserve, research and interpret material relating to the history of the College, its former Cadets and its site, and through the interpretation of the collections, to convey this history to the currently serving Cadets, the broader College community and the public.

The recommended Mandate Statement is:

The mandate of the RMCC Museum is to collect, research and interpret the tangible and intangible history and heritage of the College and the stories of its Cadets, students, alumni, faculty and staff from its founding in 1876 through the development of the Canadian military college system to the present day. The Museum will also interpret the history of the site during the prehistorical and colonial periods, and the natural history of the site from earliest times.



 Four sites were considered- two within the core of the College and two outside the security perimeter. Guided by awareness (visibility from outside the College), accessibility to the general public and contributing to the educational experience at the College, the site recommended is between the entrance gate and the road to Fort Henry.




The proposal is a building of 20,655 sq. ft. with four zones as follow:

  • Zone A – Public non-collections, visitor services/programs, including lobby, retail services, washrooms and classrooms (25%);
  • Zone B – Public Collections – Exhibition Galleries, to include permanent and temporary exhibits, introductory and exit experiences (39%);
  • Zone C – Non-public Collections – Collections and Exhibit Support – to include shipping and receiving, temporary artifact and equipment storage and conservation, exhibition and documentation workshops (22%); and
  • Zone D – Non-public Collections – Administration & Operations – to include offices, communication centre, lounge, meeting rooms, kitchen, general storage and building operations space (14%).

The building will feature necessary climate control and security features appropriate to the requirements of the collections.


The Museum will lead the visitor through six stages, with the Cadets and the College at the core of the experience.

STAGE 1 – INTRODUCTORY AND ORIENTATION. The visitor will be welcomed and provided with orientation of the Museum as a whole as well as the College site. The visitor will be provided with an overview of places of interest in the vicinity, including Fort Henry.

STAGE 2 – THE STORY OF POINT FREDERICK. The natural and pre-history of the site will be presented through the results of archaeological studies.  Its history as a colonial transhipping point and, later, as a Royal Naval Dockyard during the War of 1812 will highlight the shipbuilding at the site, the subsequent building of the Rideau Canal, Fort Henry and the Martello Towers.

STAGE 3 – THE BIRTH OF THE ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE OF CANADA AND ITS EARY YEARS. This stage will describe the state of military training prior to the creation of the College, why it was created and why it was located in Kingston. The first 38 years of the College will be described, highlighting the roles and achievements of graduates in the Northwest campaign and the South African War as well as in other campaigns as officers in Imperial Forces.  Civilian achievements of graduates will be described. The lives of Cadets at the College will be described.

STAGE 4 – THE ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE OF CANADA DURING THE WORLD WARS. This stage will provide context and background to the contribution of the College and its Ex-Cadets to the First World War. It will highlight the “Canadianization” of the College in the inter-war years, the closure of the College as a Cadet training facility in 1942 and its function during the Second World War. It will highlight the roles of Ex-Cadets in both wars as well as their roles in nation-building.

STAGE 5 – GROWTH AND CHANGE 1948 – 1995. This stage will tell the story of the re-opening of the College, its transition to a tri-Service, bilingual, degree-granting military university.  It will describe the consolidation following the closure of ROYAL ROADS and COLLEGÈ MILITAIRE ROYAL de St. Jean. It will highlight the role of the College in the design of the Canadian flag, the admission of the first female Cadets and the selection of three astronauts. The success and roles of Ex-Cadets in the military (including the Korean War, peacekeeping missions and the Cold War) and in civilian life will be described.

STAGE 6 – THE ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE OF CANADA OF THE FUTURE. This stage will cover the College from 1995 onwards, highlighting the advancement in academic areas and the roles of Ex-Cadets in the military, ranging from the Middle East, the Balkans and Afghanistan.


Highlight collections (many shown in (RMC’s Treasures) include:

  • Archeological material relating to the College site;
  • Orders, decorations and medals including the Jackman Collection and the Morton Collection and the rare George Cross awarded to Air Commodore Dwight Ross;
  • The Douglas Collection of rare firearms;
  • Important archival documents from the early years of the College;
  • A near-systematic collection of Cadet uniforms;
  • An extensive silver collection, including the Leinster Plate;
  • A collection of 67 figurines created by André Gauthier,
  • An extensive photo collection; and
  • An extensive art collection.


Exhibition costs are based on the provision of good-quality displays of artifacts and inter-active displays.

Soft costs include professional architectural, engineering and specialist consultant fees, as well as permits, development charges and project management fees.

A detailed analysis of potential operating costs and sources of revenue was conducted based on projected attendance and the ability to be open on a year-round basis, with limited hours in the non-tourist season. Since the Museum, once built, will be donated to the College, the salary of the Curator and all utility expenses will be covered by the College as is the case today.