Master Bait & Switch

Imag2es

I fail to see how anyone can reach any other conclusion than that the “Aurora Cultural Centre” is pretending to be something it’s not.  Or at least something it’s not supposed to be.

To begin finding out more about the Aurora Cultural Centre one only has to look as far as its name. 

What’s in a name?  If the answer is “purpose” than it should be confusing to everyone in this town as to what is located in the old Church Street School.

Especially after retracing some steps back to the beginning of this council’s term where the focus seemed to be restoring the historic building as a home for the “Aurora Heritage Center”.

In 2006 minutes of council show a bylaw being passed (4864-06.R, pg. B-8) to rename Church Street School “The Aurora Heritage Centre”  : http://www.e-aurora.ca/aurora/index_e.aspx?ArticleID=1058

Included here is the front page of the May 6th 2008 edition of The Auroran, which features a picture of the front of the Church Street School with a clear sign announcing the work being done, and its purpose.

It Reads:

Aurora Museum Closed for Renovation and Expansion as Aurora Heritage Centre

V08N27P101.pdf
Download this file

The 2008 York Region Heriatge Directory (  http://www.york.ca/NR/rdonlyres/nmrqg7vu4pylkcfpfnwxop5m5u2vzrhamjge4uko4avdulbr3ouvwytnln4dghkxxh6uh34cbanxqv76n3qgapehdb/Heritage+Directory+2008.pdf ) lists the Aurora Heritage Centre on pg 20 :

Website: http://auroraheritagecentre.org/
Email: ahs@aurorahs.com
Phone: 905-727-8991
Address: 22 Church Street, Aurora, ON L4G 1G4
Description: The Heritage Centre project is currently scheduled to open in late 2008. This is a project of the Town of Aurora. Contact the Town or the number above for more information.

And this is where the trail runs cold.

There is no more mention of the Aurora Heritage Centre.

It’s like it just disappeared.

Luckily someone who knows their way around the internet archive can recover the website that existed between 2006 – 2008 as it seems as though the website for the Aurora Heritage Centre may become it’s own, and only artifact.

The home page can be viewed via this link:  http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054551/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_home.htm

I found that the pages loaded extremely slow, so if you are interested in viewing the site I have included snapshots of each page along with come excerpts that outline what I understand the Aurora Heritage Centre‘s function to be.

1.) Collections:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054526/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_collections.htm

1-collection

The Aurora Heritage Centre believes in the value of historic knowledge of community, in helping us to understand not only ourselves as individuals, but also our community at large. Our lives are enriched by this knowledge. The Society’s museums and archives are genuine treasuries. Holding much of Aurora’s cultural heritage, they provide an understanding for who we are and of the rich legacy on which we build and with which we move confidently into the future.

The Centre showcases, on this interim web site, a few representative artifacts held in its collections at the Aurora Museum, which is soon to be re-opened in the newly renovated Aurora Heritage Centre. Shown, too, are images of the holdings of the Society ’s Aurora Archives, also to be located in this facility.

2.) Events & Exhibits:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054604/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_eventex.htm

2-events-exhibits

In addition to dedicated gallery spaces, archives and artifact storage, the centre will also provide spacious, accessible meeting spaces for both Centre and community functions. Designated program rooms will be available for Centre programming aimed at all ages, providing a unique focal point for heritage functions targeted to present and future generations.

The focus of public programming by the centre will provide historic knowledge of the community to the community through story-telling, explorations of the meanings and myths of culture, and, by promoting community identity and integrity through the facilitation of public dialogue on cultural and social issues.

The Centre’s plans also include programming links with its other museum, Hillary House, The Koffler Museum of Medicine, a national historic site located on Yonge Street north of Wellington. A regional heritage information exhibit is also anticipated.

3.) Facilities
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054639/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_facilities.htm

3-facilities

The Aurora Heritage Centre will be located in the 1886 provincially recognized historic site known locally as ‘Church Street School,’ situated in Library Square, the heart of our community just steps from Aurora’s historic downtown core.

The Centre’s plans include expanded research and library facilities including digital lab facilities, a venue for visual and performing artists, meeting spaces for business and community groups, distinctive venues for private functions, elegant gallery spaces as well as a gift shop and small café.

4.) About
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054652/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_about.htm

4-about

The Aurora Heritage Centre [the ‘Centre’] is a project of the Aurora Historical Society slated to open in the early summer of 2006. This dynamic, multi-use facility, providing a focal point for social and cultural events, will be located in the 1886 provincially recognized historic site known locally as ‘Church Street School.’ The Centre will be situated in Library Square, the heart of our community just steps from Aurora’s historic downtown core.

The aim of the not-for-profit centre is to provide a focus for the community of Aurora in caring for and enhancing its unique sense of cultural identity through the preservation, interpretation and promotion of Aurora’s social, cultural and material heritage.

The Centre is home to collections of historical artifacts and archival documents covering the range of the town’s history in the 19th and 20th centuries. These materials form the basis of our future galleries, of temporary exhibits and of future virtual exhibits on this website.

It is hoped the Aurora Heritage Centre will be an essential cultural resource for the community and a key destination for tourism as well as for local and regional groups. The Centre aspires to meet its objectives by involving our municipality, our local community, businesses, residents and schools in the creation of a ‘Centre’ for Heritage in Aurora.

5.) Plans for the Aurora Heritage Centre
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054429/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_plans.htm

5-plans

The principal resources of the Centre will be its collections of historic artifacts and archival materials which tell the stories of Aurora’s rich heritage. Important historical and cultural themes will be brought alive using multimedia and interactive, three-dimensional exhibits and displays, helping the community appreciate the contribution of historic knowledge in understanding our times and shaping the way ahead.

The Centre will include a state-of-the-art research centre, with conservation and digital imaging labs, as well as historic artifact and archival collections, allowing residents to conduct genealogical and other research on a wide range of topics of cultural interest.

There were also two additional pages of cursory interest:

6.) Visit or Contact Us
http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054539/ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_contact.htm

6-contact

7.) Renovations
http://web.archive.org/web/20101012161507/http://ahc.space4art.biz/AHC_renovations.htm

7-renovations

A most interesting link indeed turned up to be the Centre’s projected business plan proposed by D. Barr of the Aurora Historical Society back in 2003 which it is claimed to be comprehensive and that the fundamental purposes of the Centre are reflected inside:  http://web.archive.org/web/20060716054429/http://ahc.space4art.biz/docs/AHC_projectedBizplan.pdf

The 12 page plan reinforces all the points raised on the website, but it also outlines the Organization’s Core Business as:

“The core business of the Society lies in two inter-related, and mutually supporting portfolios (areas). One is its museum business, the second is its business in public programming and community outreach – neither of which can exist in isolation from theother. Together they define two interacting and mutually supporting aspects of the Society’s work.”

1. The Society preserves and manages collections of historical and contemporary artefacts and operates integrated museum and historical medical practice museum facilities in order to provide educational services for visitors and the community.

2. Through its programs and the operation of a content management website (see Appendix 2 and The Technology-Enabled Museum in the Twenty-First Century, p. 14), the society also provides a platform for dialogue on matters of community interest.  The society’s programs and facilities serve as an attraction for visitors to the Aurora region and enhance desirability of the region as a home and a place to do business.

There is absolutely no mention of an “Aurora Cultural Center” until somewhere between 2008 & 2009, and that’s where things seem to get derailed, ending in an almost 4 year delay of opening of a center that has been stripped of its original purpose.

There was a recent article in the Mayora Banner regarding the anaversary of the Aurora Cultural Center:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news/local/article/882447–aurora-cultural-centre-turns-1

Laura Schembri, executive director, is quoted in the article as saying:

Most now know the facility isn’t a museum,  quickly pointing out the town’s heritage does have a home there. She keeps in contact with Aurora Historical Society Hillary House curator Jennifer Steen.

The society still owns the artifacts and archives, she says, adding they are kept safe in special climate-controlled rooms in the basement and on the centre’s two above-ground floors.

WTF!

Laura goes on to say that “We’re excited, because the possibilities are endless,” , which may be true, but what about the centre’s intended purpose?

From her presentation to council on Sept 28th everything was pomp & circumstance.  What is currently available at the Cultural Centre, and what is not considering the amount of money spent is very revealing.

If you have the misfortune of visiting the Culutual Centre’s abysmal excuse for a website at: http://www.auroraculturalcentre.ca/home you will read the words:

“Website in development” This page is not yet live or interactve.

another WTF!

Where is the money going?

I’d be very interested to see the grant applications, and guidelines from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to see if what has been done in the last year and a half even remotely qualifies.

I’m not convinced that it does, and if Aurora’s “Cultural” Centre is being co-opted as a gathering place for elitists to hold ticketed V.I.P. cocktail parties for their friends than I have to agree with the one suggestion over on the AuroraCitizen that center sell the “Yamaha c7 Grand Piano” (at a street value of $37,000 USD) and use the funds to buy $ for the food bank.

By trumpeting the Centre’s re-birth as an accomplishment worthy of her re-election, and effectively living in the centre since its opening for every conceivable photo-op Phyllis only proves George Santayana’s assertion that “An artist may visit a museum, but only a pedant can live there”

Come Oct 25th I will be looking for leaders that will return Aurora’s “Heritage” to its Centre.

I suggest as a community we do the same.

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