A Winnipeg heritage group is holding out hope that the Dalnavert Museum building can still be a museum, rather than be converted into a drop-in centre for victims of crime.

Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg says she was surprised to learn of plans to turn the historic mansion into Candace House, the brainchild of victims' rights advocate Wilma Derksen.

Derksen made an agreement with the Manitoba Historical Society earlier this month to take over the building and name it after her daughter, Candace, who was murdered in 1984.

Situated on Carlton Street in downtown Winnipeg, the Victorian mansion housed the Dalnavert Museum until September, when the historical society closed the museum due to dwindling attendance and a lack of funding.

Tugwell said she wants Dalnavert to be kept as a museum, with some upgrades.

"Give us an opportunity to see if this museum can be sustainable," she told CBC News on Thursday.

"It can reinvent itself, it can be a museum of the 21st century, and I know there's other historic home museums across the country we can use as models."

Can it house both?

Tugwell said Heritage Winnipeg had submitted a proposal in January to save the museum, only to learn in a newspaper story that its bid wasn't accepted and Derksen's was.

Derksen has said Candace House won't be a home for victims of crime, but it will be similar to a drop-in centre, staffed with counsellors and support workers.

Wilma Derksen at Dalnavert

Wilma Derksen stands on the porch of the former Dalnavert Museum, which will become home to Candace House, a centre for victims of crime. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

Historical society officials said part of the agreement with Candace House is that the grounds and the building's historic exterior will be maintained.

Tugwell said it's possible to have both a victims' centre and a museum inside the building.

"We don't really know the requirements right now of Candace House from a physical standpoint of what kind of space they need, what kind of requirements," she said.

"So we'd love to sit down with Mrs. Derksen and if that's a possibility, it certainly would be on the table."