by John Walker

In December 16, 2016, Haldimand County Staff revealed a new delivery model for cultural services in staff Report PED-GM-10-2016.  No citizens, no historians, no tourist visitors and to our knowledge no museum curators demanded this upheaval and dislocation of Haldimand’s archives, artifacts and heritage.  We believe on the evidence that this was strictly a staff and council initiative cobbled together to justify the demolition and removal of building from the courthouse grounds to enable their sale and development.

In the council in Committee meeting on May 30th, staffer Craig Manley was asked outright if there were any current plans, etc., to put condos on the Court House Grounds.  His reply was, “The short answer is no.”  The long answer is yes.

On September 15, 2016, in The Haldimand Press, both Don Boyle and Councillor Fred Morison suggested use of the Court House Grounds for seniors condos and said the intention is to sell the property.

At the council meeting on December 12, 2016, in response to a presenter who opposed staff’s recommendations, Councillor Corbett said, “How do you expect us to pay for the new Admin Building if we don’t sell this property?”

At the May 30th meeting and a month previous, Councillors Dalimonte is still recommending seniors condos on this site.

With regard to the future of the land, Court House Grounds, the council resolution passed in 2016 does not mandate the preservation of the property as public parkland.  This is an outright blatant falsehood.

What was mandated was, “that the county maintain public ownership…of the Cayuga Admin Building lands and the HCMA lands for ‘public purposes’ following the closure and demolition of the buildings on the lands in 2019”.  Passed 6 – 0 by council.

Nothing here mentions or mandates any preservation of the Court House Grounds as public parkland.  This statement was an amendment to the original PED-GM-10-2016 and in no way precludes the construction or development on the Court House Grounds for public purposes.

If indeed council has decided not to sell, lease, or build on the Court House Grounds, let the area be rezoned in the new Official Plan from residential to parkland.  There is no longer any reason or rationale for demolishing the HCMA or removing the log cabin.

In the council meeting on May 30th, Councillor Morison stated nothing other than “grass and trees” on Court House Grounds.  This statement has little import not being backed up by a council resolution.  If you trust Mr. Morison (a definite stretch) we expect to see him on the Court House Grounds in 2019 with grass seed and saplings to remediate the footprints of the demolished buildings with greenery.

As a result of this new outreach-focused cultural service model, “priceless artifacts” , to quote staffer Sheila Wilson, will be situated in the new Admin Building, six libraries, two other museums, and with other community groups, businesses and institutions.  As per the report PED-GM-10-2016, these displays will be “regularly refreshed” necessitating heavy traffic of delicate and rare artifacts throughout the county.  Loss and damage will be inevitable. It is well known that the prime mandate of a museum is preservation, not display.

In the news release from Haldimand County, dated June 14, 2017, the word “tourist” is never mentioned.  Similarly this word was never mentioned in staffer Wilson’s presentation to council on May 30th.  Yet in staff’s Report PED-GM-10-2016 the yearly tourist traffic at the HCMA was recorded as 3,851 visitors plus 398 genealogical researchers.

Recently a consultant Twenty31, presented a report to council recommending they concentrate on tourists deemed as “knowledge seekers”:  people who appreciate historical and cultural products, i.e. museums, archives, historic sites.

This tourist traffic will be lost.  It cannot be sustained by 1,400 sq ft. in a downtown Cayuga library surrounded by concrete and located on the busiest highway in Haldimand County.  How many tourists do you know who go to visit Admin  Buildings and libraries.

The distribution of artifacts to other venues and digitization of the items would best be served in the existing museums 4,400 sq ft.   Moving all the history and archives into the 1,400 sq. ft. library space and 850 sq. ft. in the Admin Building basement results in a very tight squeeze.  The addition of items to the Haldimand Archives and collection that are relevant artifacts still in citizens’ possession will not be possible in future.  Artifacts will no longer be accepted as per PED-GM-10-2016 report.  The museum collection’s growth stops here.

Regarding the Ontario Genealogy Society files and Haldimand Archives, in some mysterious manner eight-five percent of the copyright-protected OGS files have appeared in the Haldimand Archives.  In the Report PED-GM-10-2016 presented to council only 600 sq. ft. was allotted in the new library for archives.  The report stated that the archives might or might not be staffed.  No provision was made for the artifacts.  Only massive public outcry and a petition with a thousand signatures forced council to add 800 sq. ft. to the library/museum (now morphed into library/heritage center).  It may be this “heritage centre” cannot be named a museum as the Provincial Ministry of Culture is cutting off the operating grant for HCMA.

All this upheaval, demolition, inventories, digitization, transportation, re-housing, electronic displays, etc., etc., will not be cheap.  It will take well over $1,000,000.00 to accomplish resulting in the emasculation of the Haldimand County Museum and Archives as a tourist destination and central preserver of Haldimand achives and historical artifacts.

We feel sorry for the staff Mayor Hewitt says are, “working tirelessly to solidify a plan”.  They are also working needlessly on a project of their own creation that the overwhelming majority of Haldimand County residents never asked for and do not want.