By Joel Wittnebel / The Oshawa Express
The Oshawa Museum would like to expand strongly.
Plans for a new 10,000 square meter visitor center in Lakeview Park are in the works and mark the first step towards providing more program space, storage space and offices for an organization that has long since outgrown its current premises.
“We are bursting at the seams and there are many things that we would like to advance in programming that are just not accessible to us right now,” says Laura Suchan, director of the Oshawa Museum.
The new plans approved in principle by the Council can now be put into practice.
“That was something we really wanted before we continued, we didn’t want to spend any money or anything,” says Suchan. “We are pleased to say that the Council has backed it in principle and it is now up to the Oshawa Historical Society to put the wheels in motion to make this happen.”
The current plan is for the building to be placed in the empty space north of the existing Henry and Gray houses and south of the parking lot on Simcoe Street.
“It’s not an area of the park that is used all the time, so it’s actually perfect for our needs,” says Suchan.
The plans would allow more office space for museum staff and, most importantly, larger and better programming areas for museum visitors and better storage areas for the museum’s collection to be stored wherever they can, including in the attics of some of the historic houses.
Nor are they wasting time getting the ball rolling, as plans for an archaeological assessment of the proposed site are due to begin in the first week of May.
“It’s very close to the historic houses, and we also had an excavation in the garden at Henry House that found some good historical, archaeological artifacts,” says Suchan. “I see this summer as a kind of foundation stone for many things in the future.”
The expansion was also a long time coming, because an expert opinion from 1996 determined that the museum needed a lot of space at that time too.
“The existing structures do not fully support the current curatorial, programmatic and administrative activities of the OM,” states the report by consultants to Sears and Russell. “The artifact and archive collections (basement, attics, an unheated outdoor storage cabinet) are completely inadequate in terms of space requirements, accessibility and safety and environmental conditions.”
Another report, completed in 2016, found exactly the same thing, stating that “Space constraints are a major obstacle to all Oshawa Museum activities, putting existing collections at risk of damage and limiting future collections of Oshawa heritage becomes”.
However, residents who might want to visit the new piece of the Oshawa Museum may have to wait a little longer as the goal would be for the building to be completed in conjunction with Oshawa’s centenary celebrations in 2024.
“We thought this was a great way to celebrate this centenary. You recognize and honor the past, but it is a building for the future and future growth, ”says Suchan. “We’d love to see this project as an official city project for the centenary, something that could maybe get the whole city to get involved because we really want to do this for the community.”
As for funding, Suchan says it’s too early to speculate, but notes that using existing grants and possibly a fundraising campaign are on the horizon. Suchan notes that they may also partner with other organizations to share the space.
“It’s hard to say at the moment. Our original plan, when it was finished, of re-programming and increasing programming capacity certainly made up for a large part of the increased operating costs, ”she says. “We are open to partners, if there is another historical or cultural group that is looking for space, we are certainly open to such discussions and we certainly did that in the 90s.”