by Laura Rodgers, Abbotsford News
Two of Abbotsford’s major cultural institutions, The Reach Gallery Museum and the MSA Museum Society, which operates Trethewey House Heritage Site, will merge into one arts and heritage organization.
Yvonne Hayden, president of the MSA Museum Society board, said the two organizations with similar mandates have long had reasons to work together.
“There was hope and expectation when the Reach was originally built this would happen, but it didn’t,” she said. “I don’t know all the political reasons behind it, but it didn’t. I’m happy it did now, it’s a real natural fit.”
The combined organization will continue to operate both the Reach building and Trethewey House, and they plan to expand and improve community programming.
Milt Walker, chair of the Reach board of directors, said, “From an economical perspective it only makes sense that by combining both human and fiscal resources the two organizations will serve the community more efficiently and effectively.
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 in Clearbrook, north of South Fraser Way, which regularly hosts diverse fine art exhibitions. Art classes are also offered, and they maintain an archive of historic local documents and their own collection of historic artifacts.
Trethewey House, which now operates as a museum.
The Reach’s 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, and they receive a similar fee-for-service payment from the city of $75,000.
Walker said the two groups have not yet discussed with the city what their combined fee-for-service payment 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 too hard, and no layoffs will occur: “There will be jobs for everybody.”
Kelly Railton, the executive director of the MSA Museum Society, said the best part of the amalgamation is that the Reach’s historical archives and the society’s collection of artifacts can be studied and displayed together.
“It was all one collection originally,” said Railton.
The two organizations have been planning a joint exhibition for over a year, “Voices of the Valley,” which displays the archival documents together with important Abbotsford artifacts. This exhibition, which features interactive and multimedia components, will be open at the Reach this December.
Laura Schneider, the curator and acting executive director of the Reach, said her first step will be to inventory all historical objects in Trethewey House and reevaluate how they are stored and displayed. Things that “best illustrate the history of the house” will be kept there, and more volatile or delicate items will be moved to climate-controlled storage.
The two groups hope to fully execute the merger by January of 2016.