HRM aids Africville Mu­seum

$8,000 op­er­at­ing grant from the city isn’t quite enough, says staff, but it’s some­thing to build on.


Hal­i­fax is step­ping in to help keep the Africville Mu­seum run­ning. On Mon­day, the city’s grants com­mit­tee ap­proved a three­year op­er­at­ing grant of $8,000 to help the un­der­funded mu­seum keep its lights on.

This is a first for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The money is com­ing out of an in­terim com­mu­nity grant pro­gram that helps sup­port a host of mu­se­ums that have strug­gled to lock down enough pro­vin­cial fund­ing to stay run­ning.

“The con­cern was raised par­tic­u­larly for small com­mu­nity mu­se­ums,” says grant team leader Peta-Jane Tem­ple. “Many of those are vol­un­teer-based, so even if they’re only open through a rel­a­tively short sum­mer sea­son, some were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing burnout… strug­gling with the core op­er­at­ing funds.” The Africville Mu­seum is no ex­cep­tion. In the 1960s, the north end African-Nova Sco­tian com­mu­nity known as Africville was de­mol­ished un­der a pre­tense of ur­ban re­newal. Fam­i­lies were dis­placed, build­ing were torn down and the land was left largely un­oc­cu­pied for decades. As part of the repa­ra­tions for this painful mo­ment in Hal­i­fax’s his­tory, in 2010 Hal­i­fax mayor Peter Kelly for­mally apol­o­gized to the res­i­dents and descen­dants of Africville for the de­mo­li­tion and dis­place­ment of their com­mu­nity.

As part of this set­tle­ment, the city granted $3 mil­lion and 2.5 acres of land to build a replica of Africville’s Seav­iew United Bap­tist Church, which would dou­ble as an in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre. The mu­seum opened its doors to the pub­lic in 2011 and has been run­ning off its orig­i­nal set­tle­ment money ever since.

The mu­seum’s gen­eral man­ager, Juanita Peters, says they’ve al­ways known the money would never be enough. The mu­seum has se­cured a num­ber of grants for spe­cific projects over the years, and makes some money from ad­mis­sions fees and fundrais­ing, but keep­ing the lights on, heat run­ning and staff paid is a heavy price to carry.

“With­out op­er­a­tional fund­ing from the city or mu­nic­i­pal­ity or prov­ince, it makes it very dif­fi­cult for small mu­se­ums to con­tinue do­ing the work,” says Peters. The prov­ince only doles out funds to mu­se­ums which meet the cri­te­ria set out by the Com­mu­nity Mu­seum As­sis­tance Pro­gram. Qual­i­fy­ing mu­se­ums are eval­u­ated ev­ery three years, and must main­tain a min­i­mum score in or­der to keep their mu­seum sta­tus.

Peta-Jane Tem­ple says this rig­or­ous eval­u­a­tion process is part of the rea­son so many small mu­se­ums are run­ning out of op­er­at­ing funds. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s in­terim grant pro­gram is meant to help bridge the fi­nan­cial gap for mu­se­ums that have yet to be ac­cred­ited by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Peters, the Africville Mu­seum has yet to ask the prov­ince for any op­er­at­ing funds. The $8,000 grant from the city isn’t quite enough to keep the mu­seum run­ning— the or­ga­ni­za­tion orig­i­nally ap­plied for the max­i­mum $15,000—but Peters says any new in­flux of money will go a long way.

“It’s not enough, but it’s cer­tainly more than we had be­fore and some­thing to build on.”

Now, Peters says, the mu­seum can turn its at­ten­tion to draw­ing fund­ing from other av­enues at the lo­cal, pro­vin­cial and even na­tional level: “We are a fed­eral na­tional his­toric site so we will be go­ing to the feds this year in hopes that they have some­thing for us, en­abling us to sus­tain some­thing that they have la­belled and con­sid­ered a very im­por­tant part of Cana­dian his­tory.”


City help is wel­come when the prov­ince’s fund­ing process is fail­ing many small mu­se­ums.

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