The Yukon Historical and Museums Association is calling on the City of Whitehorse and territorial government to work with MacBride Museum to ensure the museum can keep operating year-round.
The statement comes in light of recent financial woes MacBride is facing.
“The YHMA urges the City of Whitehorse and Government of Yukon to recognize the importance of MacBride Museum to the health, vitality, and economic well-being of our community, and to work with the Board of Directors to ensure that the MacBride Museum can continue to offer year-round programming and access to the valuable collection they hold in trust for all Yukoners,” the statement reads.
As for potential solutions, YHMA executive director Lianne Maitland said it’s the museum that would be in the best position to determine what could work.
“YHMA is confident in the ability of the MacBride Museum Board of Directors to identify actions that the Government of Yukon or City of Whitehorse could take to help the museum continue full operations, and prefers to support them rather than speculate as to possible solutions,” she said.
The YHMA is made up of museums, art galleries and cultural centres as well as individuals with an interest in history, and aims “to strengthen heritage in the Yukon through leadership, advocacy and education”.
Maitland said YHMA wanted to add its voice to the discussion about MacBride. She pointed to the value of the museum to the community and the negative impact if hours or programming were cut. Maitland also acknowledged the work of the museum’s board and said any solution would likely involve the territory and/or city.
“Ultimately, museums exist for the public benefit, and so it is the public that will lose out if MacBride Museum is unable to continue regular operations,” she said.
At its annual general meeting in April, museum members passed a resolution that MacBride would be willing to sell the museum land and buildings to the territory provided the society retains the ability to operate the museum independently. Territorial funding for MacBride’s Waterfront Trolley also ended on March 31, effectively halting the summer service.
The museum has property tax bills with the city totalling $154,000 for 2018 and 2019, which the museum society says it can’t pay. The 2019 taxes are not due until July 2, but the 2018 bill – at more than $64,000 including penalties and interest – is past due.
Because of the outstanding tax bill, the museum was not eligible to receive a city recreation grant it applied for that would have gone to programming.
Museum chair Rick Nielsen has said the organization is not able to pay the taxes and due to the financial situation the focus of officials will shift from preserving, showcasing and providing education on Yukon history to “staying solvent”.
YHMA officials pointed to contributions it argued MacBride has made in promoting and providing education on the territory’s heritage since it began as the Yukon Historical Society in 1950.
“The museum has also demonstrated that it is an involved member of the Whitehorse community, delivering school programs, offering free admission nights, and partnering with local organizations, as well as hosting lectures, performances, and other events,” the YHMA wrote, going on to point out the museum’s role in tourism as it welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year.
In response to the statement, cabinet spokesperson Lisa Bucher confirmed discussions are underway.
“Minister (Jeanie) Dendys will continue to work with her cabinet colleagues to determine appropriate next steps,” Bucher said.
City of Whitehorse spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the city has offered support to MacBride in any discussions it has with the Yukon government.
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