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Members of Saskatchewan Museum Association come together for yearly meeting

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Yorkton, Sask. -

Earlier this week, members from 10 different communities discussed challenges and solutions for keeping their volunteer-based museums open, at a regional Museum Association of Saskatchewan (MAS) meeting in Yorkton.

Representatives from Preeceevile, Sturgis, Canora, Pelly, Kamsack, Melville, Esterhazy, Doukhobor, Regina, and Yorkton attended the event. Following the meeting, the group headed to the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society for a tour of the new interpretive station that is currently being built.

"Without volunteers, nothing like this is going to happen. The mill itself was basically ready for the big brown ball to knock it down,” Vern Brown, volunteer of the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society, said.

“It’s nice when you see it’s all being revived and going because without volunteers, it’s not going to happen.”

Every year, the Seneca Root Museum Association gets together in the spring and the fall to share issues, ideas, and ask questions regarding their small community museums.

Agnes Murrin, chair of the Preecevile & District Heritage Museum said everyone from the group seemed to be facing the same issues.

“We always give a written report, that way we bring up issues, different fundraisers that have worked and different activities that we’ve done,” Murrin explained.

“We also bring up some of the issues whether it’s getting more volunteers, getting more people on the board, getting enough money to keep running. Those are all issues we’re all facing so it’s good to get together.”

During the meeting, a spokesperson from MAS was present to answer any questions people had about provincial grant applications and funding opportunities.

“The community representative from MAS gave us some ideas to go back and tweak our purpose so that we (the museum) can become all things for all people,” explained Murrin.

“Because all museums have a purpose and values, we just have to tweak them because the world is always changing.”

Another member said the meeting was a great opportunity to network with other like-minded volunteers.

"We have a solid crew of volunteers, we've been together, I think I'm the newest one and I've been there for 15 years,” Jeniffer Stein, board member of the Melville Heritage Museum, laughed.

“Once you get in there, you get hooked because you get a passion for that museum and for what we have to offer to the community.”

Stein added that there are many challenges volunteers face with trying to stay afloat, finances being the main concern.

“It’s very difficult, it’s something we’re always going to have to be very proactive doing,” she expressed.

“We do utilize a lot of grants through municipal, provincial funding and even having our own little fundraisers, teas, raffles, things like that. There’s a lot of different aspects that come into making sure we have enough money to operate for the year.”

During the meeting, members decided on creating a video presentation to showcase what makes each of their museums unique.

“We’re going to have each of the museums record two to three minutes and it will be packaged into a 10 minute video,” Larry Pearen, president of the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society, explained.

"That video will be used for marketing for through the whole region. All of the little museums will have a chance to say something about their museum so we're excited about that."

The video will be presented in the fall during the association’s next general meeting in October.

Yorkton Brick Mill builds new interpretive station

Currently Yorkton’s Brick Mill Heritage Society is building a new interpretive station next to the mill to recognize local family farms, as well as provide tours on the history behind agriculture settlements in the region that go as far back as 1898.

The station will also be available to the public for private meetings and local events.

Pearen said the committee has about $1 million left to fundraise before the project is finished.

“We’re really pleased with the individual and corporate support. With all of our fundraising, without that support, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” Pearen expressed.

“We want to thank everyone who’s involved as a volunteer and all those who stepped up with some funds. The small amounts become big amounts so no donation is too small.” 

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