Cambridge funding cuts to Fashion History Museum may force closure

The Fashion History Museum in Hespeler is facing an uncertain future, as the City of Cambridge will reduce its funding from $80,000 to $45,000 in the next two years.

Museum co-founder says they may have to look for a new city that can support them

Kenn Norman is the co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge. (Craig Norris/CBC)

The Fashion History Museum in Hespeler is facing an uncertain future with the City of Cambridge reducing its funding in the coming years. 

The city gives $80,000 annually to the museum to pay for its core operating cost, explained Kenn Norman, the museum's co-founder and chair of its board of directors. 

Next year, that amount will decrease to $60,000. Then in 2019, it will fall to $45,000.

"Very likely, we could close to the public, look to put everything into storage and look for a facility and a city that could support us at the level that we need," said Norman.

High demand but short-staffed

The museum, which opened its Cambridge location in 2015, hadn't planned for the funding cut. Norman told CBC News he understood they would get one more $80,000 grant from the city before any reduction.

He also actually hoped to expand, rather than cut back, what the museum offers. 

"We'd like to have more staff," he said. "There's just been an incredible demand, we work internationally, and we're often working with museums and institutions that have much more resources than we do."

According to the city's office of the Chief Financial Officer, the funding was approved by council in the 2017 to 2019 budget and "the intent of the funding was to help the startup of the museum."

The museum has seen a steady increase in visitors, growing 50 per cent each year, said Norman. There have been 8,000 people who walked through its doors so far in 2017.

Yet it has just one paid staff member. Norman is unpaid. 

For now, the board of directors at the museum has decided to stay the course for 2018, with hopes of working out a plan for the coming year.

With files from the CBC's Kate Bueckert


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