By Museum Curator, Ryan Lee
Photo Credit: Tourism Media
Hello, friends of the Alberta Aviation Museum,
Thanks to everyone for your efforts in reaching out to your City Councillors, your letters to the editor, and online advocacy to make sure that our message continues to be heard. I know your efforts are helpful and likely helped prompt Councillor Anne Stevenson to recently post an update on her blog in response, found in full on her website here.
To summarize, her post explains her intentions behind the 4 July motion to City Council:
One course of action I could have taken would have been to make a motion that an unfunded service package be brought to City Council’s four year budget deliberation process coming up this fall. There are a few reasons why I opted not to take this approach.
We know that our upcoming fall budget deliberations are going to be difficult. We are working within very constrained capital budgets and there will be a number of trade-offs that Council will have to make on behalf of Edmonton and its residents. In addition to creating another 6 months of uncertainty for the Aviation Museum, I believe there was significant risk that the funding package would not have received support from a majority of Council given the many pressing priorities facing our budgets.
This motion allows City staff to start work to figure out revenue and partnership opportunities to keep the Aviation Museum in its home in Hanger 14. The ultimate goal is to have the Alberta Aviation Museum in a safe, secure Hangar 14 that is not owned by the City and therefore not subject to the stresses of its budget processes and decisions.
The City of Edmonton does provide grants to non-residential heritage buildings, which the Hangar 11 owners were able to secure, to a maximum of $500,000 per year, for up to ten years ($5 million). This obviously would be an immense help but does not fully bridge the funding gap to pay for the rehabilitation of the hangar.
What is that cost?
This is what we are hard at work trying to figure out. Recently, the Department of National Defence rehabilitated HMCS Nonsuch, a 30,000-square-foot Second World War drill hall of similar construction to Hangar 14. Ron Sharpe is leading the efforts to talk to DND and the companies contracted to do the work for a detailed cost breakdown for the work done.
We have also recently had a preliminary meeting with André Corbould, the City Manager, who leads the City of Edmonton Administration. He will be designating a senior staffer at the City of Edmonton to be our primary contact to coordinate any requests we have from the City. As it was a preliminary meeting, he was not able to provide an explanation for the wildly disparate cost estimates for the rehabilitation of Hangar 14 (i.e., that it was $41 million in repairs, while the February 2022 Investment Report listed an option at $23 million over 20 years.
Understanding the true costs is key to moving forward with a plan to say here in Hangar 14, as well as understanding what money was already allocated by the City for Hangar maintenance and repair. I’ve also been asking about Hangar #39, and recently heard from Tom Lumsden, the Development Manager for Blatchford, who reports that the interior has been stripped out and the servicing cut off. The building is “not in very good shape and would take considerable effort to make it habitable.” I am continuing to inquire for actual specifics since we really do need a more accurate estimate to compare with the plan of staying in Hangar 14.
Mr. Corbould did stress in the meeting that he definitely does not want to see the collection leaving the City, and would be committing resources to help us out. While this was a welcome relief, I think it’s important to emphasize that the collection is not the museum, and the museum is not the hangar. What I mean by that is that while the aircraft in our collection are of course interesting, with some having significant historical value, if they are disconnected from a museum dedicated to telling their story, they risk becoming décor.
The Alberta Aviation Museum is also much more than its collection; it’s a community built primarily by hardworking volunteers that have passionately built a fantastic organization. The work of the Edmonton Air Museum Committee (1974-1979) and the Alberta Aviation Museum Association (1980-present) spans almost a half-century. The museum hosts local schools, day camps, weekend camps, and public lectures. We partner with local community groups, theatre companies, independent filmmakers, and historians, and host a variety of non-aviation community groups in the event hall.
And when I say that the museum is not the hangar, I mean that we are not the only group here. The Alberta Aviation Museum would not be in Hangar 14 were it not for the success in partnering with other community aviation groups in 1991 under the umbrella of the Edmonton Aviation Heritage Society, and many of these groups continue to call the hangar home, and also deserve the support of the City.
We have also established a dialogue with the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, to get as much info from them as we can about what was involved in their odyssey of building a new hangar and how they were successful in securing their funding. Of course, this was a much longer process – about nine years from creating a plan to build a new building to re-opening the museum in the new location. They were able to secure funding from multiple levels of government and private donors, so they will be a wealth of information to help us out in the days and months ahead.
Going forward, we will need help from other levels of government, but have not yet been successful in getting the attention of our Member of Parliament, Randy Boissonnault, who is the Minister of Tourism. If you still have energy for letter writing or phone calls, I’d encourage you to also direct messages asking him to come to the table in support of the Alberta Aviation Museum and member groups here at Hangar 14.
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