No layoffs in merger of museum and gallery

Change to begin with focus on preservation of items.

Milt Walker

The merger between the MSA Museum Society and The Reach Gallery Museum will start with a full-scale cataloguing of all historical items currently on display at Trethewey House Heritage Site.

Laura Schneider, curator and acting executive director of The Reach, said she and the curatorial team are determining what items should stay in the 1920s-era historic residence, and which should be stored elsewhere.

“Things that might be more volatile in terms of preservation will be kept in environmentally controlled storage spaces,” said Schneider, adding that she will work to “make sure it’s a sound environment for the safe display of our collections” by evaluating the house’s environment.

The two community organizations finalized their plans to merge on Aug. 24, with a vote in favour from the MSA Museum Society’s membership. Since then, leadership and staff from both groups have expressed their hopes for what will come when they fully amalgamate.

The MSA Museum Society has existed since the mid-20th century and maintains the historic Trethewey House, built in 1920 near Mill Lake, and a collection of local historical artifacts – such as equipment from the now-shuttered Clayburn brick factory and saws from a former lumber mill on Mill Lake.

Built in 2008, The Reach is an art gallery and museum near city hall on Veterans Way, which regularly hosts diverse fine art exhibitions. Art classes are also offered, and The Reach maintains an archive of historic local documents and its own collection of historic artifacts. Annual operating expenses run close to a million dollars, with the lion’s share coming from a City of Abbotsford fee-for-service payment. In 2015, the city paid $625,000.

The MSA Museum Society has a yearly operating budget of about $200,000, receiving a similar fee-for-service payment from the city of $75,000.

Milt Walker, chair of The Reach’s board of directors, said the two groups have not yet discussed with the city what their combined public funding will be in the coming year, though sorting out budget issues is a high priority going forward. He said drawing up a new organizational structure for the combined organization shouldn’t be difficult, and no layoffs will occur.

“There will be jobs for everybody.”

Walker said the job of re-cataloguing, and possibly moving, much of the Trethewey House collection may take extra funds, but couldn’t speculate how much.

Yvonne Hayden, the current president of the MSA Museum Society board, and Dorothy Van Der Ree, the group’s former executive director, both said this merger is a long time coming. In fact, they would’ve preferred if The Reach had been partnered with the MSA Museum Society from the beginning. Both said this likely didn’t happen for “political” reasons, but declined to elaborate.

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