a “Collection”, yeah we have one of those


You just can’t see it.

Where is it?

It’s in crates somewhere.  Some of it is at the Hillary House, more of lays in piles it in the Old Public Library, and some pieces are stowed away in the basement of the Church Street School.

It’s better that all of that old stuff is out of the way, makes more room for “culture” don’t you think?

What’s a couple old tables, teapots and a plow anyway?

Found on the Aurora Historical Society’s website :

“Over the years the Society has collected and preserved over 5,000 artifacts, which have now become the nucleus of the Aurora Collection”

The issue over who “owns” that collection, was raised over on Clr. Buck’s blog by a few pathetic anonymous posters who saw it somehow prohibiting the town from levereging either a portion or in its entirety for display in a permanent museum, because it was “owned” by the AHS and not the town.  I commented on that in a previous post here:

Clr. Buck brought forward the issue in the Sept. 13 council meeting where in response to comments by Clr. Ballard she pointed out that “the collection” was accumulated over the years including purchases by the town, donations by the community.  She stated that she would hate to see an argument/dispute as to owns the collection, but that is exactly what it came to.

The issue over ownership was formally addressed at council through a notice of motion put forward by the mayor at the December 13th meeting.

It looks as though the corporation of the town and the AHS have been in discussions (tied into issues regarding the usurping of our musem and the need for curator services) and as a result there is desire on behalf of the AHS to hand over the collection to the town for the purposes of expediating the proper curation and display of the collection in perhaps the setting of a museum where it resided up until 2003.

It was voted on unanimously in favor of receiving the collection, but not until a recorded vote was called where it was pointed out that Clr, Gaertner seemed to change her vote.  She claimed she was simply late in raising her hand which didn’t seem to fly with the majority of those sitting at the table.

Who in their right mind would question this aquisition, or even oppose it?

Well there was some huffing and puffing from Clr. Ballard who stated upfront that he was “sensitive to the AHS”, but seemed to be overly concerned with assuming liability and costs for the collection.

“I don’t want to bind us to an expense that we don’t know what it is.”

If The AHS has assumed the collection for such a lengthy period and done so by a joint relationship with the town and being subsidized to the amount of $50,000+ a year, what don’t we know?

Does the Clr. not believe that the town staff would have reviewed the town’s involvement in their discussions?  The C.A.O. was brought in to respond to the Clrs concerns to which he dispelled them very effectively.

It is tiresome pointing out the blatant hipocracy in Clr. Ballard’s statements of concern over unkown expenses when he is in complete support on shoveling $ at the Cultural Centre.

It was very interesting to hear Clr. Ballard pontificate that “other communities are moving away from that model”, to which I assume he means owning and running a collection of heritage artefacts.

Which ones did the Clr. Balard cite as comparables : none.

There are none in York Region that I know of.  In fact every municipality has a collection and a museum with the exception of Aurora.

If there is a new “model”, and I don’t believe there is, perhaps Clr. Ballard should consider notifying all of the neghbouring munipalities that they are doing it wrong.  That all of their staff, all of their volunteers are for nought.  That the experiences gained by their citizens aren’t as valuable as a community that eschews their heritage in favor of a “cultural” centre and a fanciful notion of “museology”.

Clr. Buck and Clr. Humphreys chimed in that Clr. Ballard seems greatly out of touch with the great desire in the town to ressurect its musem, and that “model” to which he refered is both valid and given the absense of our musuem since 2003 this is just one step to reclaiming it.

So what does it mean now that the “Aurora” Collection belongs to Aurorans?

Will citizens of Aurora have greater access to the collection?

That is yet to be seen, although I can’t expect we will have any less access.

In reviewing the AHS’ 2011 proposal to the Town of Aurora titled “Access to Heritage for Aurorans” that was presented by Suzanne Reiner at the Jan 31st 2011 Special Budget Meeting (http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=58187) one has several questions as to the rate of sucess the AHS was able to achieve.

The proposal is available, but buried in meetings minutes, I have posted it here:

Download this file

In her presentation Reiner outlined :

“With an additional investment of $50,000 from the Town of Aurora, [the Aurora Historical Society] would be able to purchase conservation supplies, exhibition and programming materials, and hire a Curator of Collections and Programs.”

How much of this was done?

It would be interesting to see exactly how they spent their $50,000 in the 2011 calendar year.

Reiner believed that “Permanent, stable and on-going funding ensures that the Town of Aurora and its residents continue to have access to and enjoy heritage services.” 

But is that really true?

Did the town have access to its collection, and was it able to enjoy the heritage services it paid for?

How could it without a museum?

Perhaps the foolish thought they would find a home in Aurora’s “Cultural Centre”, but of course they were wrong.

According to Reiner in the March 1st Auroran the Cultural Centre had no space for “The Collection”.

Don’t believe me, you can read it here:

collection-goonthe road.pdf
Download this file

“The Cultural Centre has to make money so they have to rent that space out, so that space for 2011 is already taken”


They have to rent that space out, to make money?

Excuse me?

The goals of the Cultural Centre as outlined in the April 1st version of the Novita Report, on page 2 include:

  • “increased and improved” access to museum collections

With no space to accomodate “The Collection” the AHS was only left with one option : to put in crates and go “on the road”.


On page 8 it reads that the heritage mandate of the Centre will have 3 components including

  • Accomodation of heritage programs and events
  • Accomodation of heritage materials

Does it sound like the Cultural Centre has even been remotely accomodating to the AHS or its collection when it rents out space (that it doesn’t own) to bring in revenue instead of displaying the collection?

In the June 2008 Novita Report a Heritage Collection Agreement is outlined accross pages 57-58 there is an incredible onous placed on the AHS, with little requriements from the Centre in achieving the above goals.

A very interesting tidbit included at the bottom of the page has to do with ownership:

“It should be noted that some grant programs are contingent upon a facility owning a collection (rather than simply caring for it).”

Interesting how the overriding concern boils down to money, and grant money at that.

Now that the town owns the collection it should put to rest any of these concerns, and hopefuly raise light on new ones, like exactly what constitutes an acceptable level of Heritage Programming? and does the “Cultural” Centre have any role in it given their complete bungling of it to date.

If Reiner and the AHS “would love to definitely be more visible in the community,” they have made a good first step by donating the collection to the town and working with them to put it into a permanent home.

I can think of the perfect one.

The home of the Aurora Museum, which of course is the Church Street School.

We wouldn’t even have to change all the signs that still point there.

Of course the ones that read “Cultural Centre” are more than a little misleading, perhaps in time they themselves will be artefacts of the Aurora collection.

Watts on your mind?

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