The curate’s egg

The term is derived from this cartoon drawn by George du Maurier:

Entitled "True Humility" the cartoon was originally published in the humorous British magazine Punch back in 1895. More on that in a sec.

Last year the Aurora Historical Society announced they were disposing of their assistant curator. A delightfully passionate and engaging individual who held both a BA in Classical Archaeology from Brock University and a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Toronto.

This month The A.H.S. has lost their Manager/Curator.

With them for almost 4 years the enthusiastic, flexible and more than capable curator has jumped ship for a new post as a Cultural Development Coordinator with the City of Oshawa.

And who can blame her having recently been reduced from full-time to part-time employment.

The loss of organizational knowledge of not just one but both employees is significant and highlights the sad state of affairs the A.H.S. is in. Something it’s current and past board of directors staunchly refuses to acknowledge outwards.

This brings us back to du Maurier’s cartoon. Objective analysis and intuitive understanding of the depicted scenario is provided by way of this wikipedia entry here:’s_egg

"The humour derives from the fact that, given the social situation, the timid curate is so obsessively fearful of offending that he cannot even agree with his superior’s acknowledgement that he has served a bad egg, and thereby ends up looking absurd in his obsequiousness."

Not unlike a self-contained egg the Aurora Historical Society cannot be both partially spoiled and partially unspoiled.

In absence of true humility the Aurora Historical Society and members of its board of directors are long past their sell by date.


2 thoughts on “The curate’s egg

  1. Chris, you call my response to your posting about the Hillary House fence “patronizing,” and then use language such as the above to describe Aurora Historical Society members and our Board of Directors. At present, the AHS and its Board are looking for ways to ensure that Hillary House National Historic Site continues its role as an Aurora landmark and a public museum. Will that involve a possible transfer of ownership in future? The AHS is looking into that possibility. We are also ramping up our own findraising efforts through a renewed “Planned Giving” campaign. As I wrote previously, very few National Historic Site museums are owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations. Most are in public ownership. It is difficult for the AHS to continue to come up with sufficient funds to pay full-time salaries and look after Hillary House and its grounds properly. You have quite correctly noted that we have suffered a major loss as our very capable Manager/Curator has now moved on to full-time employment elsewhere. And we do have major restoration and mainenance concerns to address. At the same time, however, you belittle our fundraising efforts, particularly the Hillary House Ball. Through the support of many generous donors over the years, the AHS undertook the purchase, restoration and operation of Hillary Hillary House National Historic Site and made a major contribution to the restoration and renovation of Church Street School which will again become home to the Aurora Museum. All this suggests to me that we are not “long past [our] sell by date,” as you put it, but are part of a responsible organization.

  2. I responded to the comment you left in another post and you failed to answer any of the questions I posed to you there.

    Instead I see this new comment provides just more excuses. Case and point: the AHS has
    been “looking for ways” to sustain Hillary House for years.

    Of course it is. What concerns me is the AHS has been unable to locate any ways the entire time I have been paying attention. Nothing convinces me that the AHS is on the cusp of a breakthrough that will solve their mounting problems short of offloading Hillary House.

    Stating “a possible transfer of ownership in future” isn’t a “possibility” it is the trajectory the AHS is on. It was revealed at this year’s AGM that the AHS has already approached the Ontario Heritage Trust.

    As for “revamping fundraising efforts” that has been the same excuse trotted out the last 5 years. The last fundraising campaign sought to raise $3/4 million dollars by selling naming plaques and adopting artifacts. Is it really a surprise that out-of-the-box approach fell flat?

    You did indeed state previously “very few National Historic Site museums are owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations.”

    There is a very good reason for this. The AHS is now in over its head because it somehow
    convinced itself and others that it could simultaneously develop a Heritage Centre, manage a collection and operate Hillary House.

    It isn’t just “difficult for the AHS to continue to come up with sufficient funds to pay full-time salaries and look after Hillary House and its grounds properly.” as you claim, it is flat out impossible. The last 5 years of ledger sheets prove this, yet the Board of the AHS and even yourself seems to operate in denial.

    I point out the sheer folly of the AHS’ fundraising efforts because they fail to raise meaningful funds for t

    The Hillary House Ball is nothing more than an ill-conceived and as a snotty social affair held outside the town.

    Disagree? Fine then reveal exactly how much $ exactly was raised from the past 2 events after subtracting the cost of the events themselves. Then explain what % of that money actually went to the purpose they are advertised, like say repairs.

    A responsible organization wouldn’t have continued on a path that jettisoned The Aurora
    Museum, The Aurora Collection and now key staff only to be left with a National Historic Site it can’t maintain.

    A responsible organization would have proactively filed for a change of use permit to ensure that a National Historic Site was being used without undue risk and exposure.

    A responsible organization would fix things like fences and foundations without hesitation. A responsible organization would address accessibility, occupancy and fire concerns in a timely fashion, and a responsible organization would certainly provide safe entrance to a National Historic Site when holding an annual general meeting.

    A responsible organization sizes up operating costs and sets budgets accordingly, yet this seems to be beyond the capability of the AHS. This was recently confirmed in the Hillary-MacIntyre Theme Park concept where the town had to pay $25,000 to determine there wasn’t even the slightest private interest, or indicators of how operating costs would be handled.

    There are so many more WTF?s I have already covered in my posts I won’t repeat them in this reply.

    From what I have witnessed the Aurora Historical Society has a long way to go if it is seeking to re-establish itself as a responsible organization.

Watts on your mind?

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