Nova Scotia

Museum dedicated to Waverley's history faces uncertain future

The museum in Waverley on the outskirts of Dartmouth, N.S., tells the story of the area's gold-mining history. But it could be forced to close its doors indefinitely unless more volunteers step forward.

Lack of volunteers means Waverley Heritage Museum could close forever

The Waverley Heritage Museum opened its doors in the early 1990s. Without more volunteer board members, the museum may not be able to reopen next summer. (Erin MacInnis/CBC)

Nestled in the small community of Waverley on the outskirts of Dartmouth, N.S., a 150-year-old former Anglican church houses a collection of artifacts that bear witness to the area's rich history.

The Waverley Heritage Museum has operated in its current form since the early 1990s, but this could be its final summer.

Pat Clahane, the chair of the Waverley Heritage Society, the body that oversees the museum, said the seven volunteer board members are all retiring this year. Unless more volunteers step forward to carry the torch, the museum could be forced to close its doors indefinitely.

While the museum is well-supported financially, Clahane said it's increasingly difficult to find people who can commit to the long-term demands of a board position.

"These kinds of things seem to be part of a large number of things that people would like to do … if their families and lives and work were not so busy," she said.

"It becomes something that people support from their heart, but not with their hands and feet in a committed way that allows for planning and resources."

Pat Clahane is chair of the Waverley Heritage Society, which oversees the Waverley Heritage Museum. (Erin MacInnis/CBC)

The museum contains items collected by local historian Annie Blois Smith. They reflect the community's gold-mining roots and evolution of the area through the 1900s.

The collection includes vintage household items, sporting equipment, and gold-mining and blacksmithing paraphernalia. Over the years, people in the community have also entrusted family relics to the care of the museum.

The museum is open from June through the end of August, or by appointment in the off-season. One key planning component is ensuring supervision for summer students, who help with administration, provide guided tours, host community events and contribute historical research.

"We have to fill the grant applications for the students by January," Clahane said. "But to fill the grant applications, we need to be able to answer questions on the form that require having guaranteed supervision in place with specific goals that make that worthwhile employment for the students."

No board members means no students, and no students means the museum cannot operate through the summer months.

Artifacts in the Waverley Heritage Museum tell stories of the area's rich gold-mining history. If the museum closes, Clahane said the items may not be able to stay in the community for residents to enjoy. (Erin MacInnis/CBC)

Clahane said over half of the society's board of directors will automatically term out in a few months. The rules of the organization dictate the maximum length of a director's term. The stipulation was originally intended to guarantee a constant rotation of community members through the positions so that no one person "owns" the museum.

The remaining board members, she said, are no longer able to dedicate their time to the society due to outside commitments, and new volunteers are nowhere to be found.

"We've been on the ground trying to address succession planning very actively over many, many months, stretching into years," she said.

"We've been forced right to the wall, where having hoped that things would work out … we are now moving into a time when we think we have to plan to protect the artifacts from loss."

Clahane said she would like to see the museum's items stay in Waverley. She said in the event the museum does close, the board will work with the greater museum community to figure out how to preserve the artifacts inside.

"At the moment, though, we're just kind of waiting for the end of the summer, and having a great time running a great little museum … and then we're going to have to make our hard decisions," said Clahane.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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