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Keeping the doors open - Macdonald Museum gala fundraiser gets support from famed artist Tom Forrestall

Macdonald Museum director Janice Slauenwhite holds up one of the two Tom Forrestall prints donated by the artist to the museum’s gala dinner, auction, and dance fundraiser Nov. 2 at the NSCC in Middleton. One will be the door prize for the evening.
Macdonald Museum director Janice Slauenwhite holds up one of the two Tom Forrestall prints donated by the artist to the museum’s gala dinner, auction, and dance fundraiser Nov. 2 at the NSCC in Middleton. One will be the door prize for the evening. - Lawrence Powell
MIDDLETON, N.S. —

Macdonald Museum in Middleton is all about community, and director Janice Slauenwhite is hoping the community will help raise much-needed funds to keep the place going.

It’s tough to do when you don’t charge admission – so they’re having a gala. And the Rotary Club of Middleton is helping out with that. So is Tom Forrestall.

“The museum, over the last couple of years, has really come to life and it’s become quite a community hub,” Slauenwhite said. “We have so many things happening here for the community. That’s what we’re all about – the community.”

She said the museum has an ambitious program of events lined up for the fall season with the hope of funding the upcoming year. The mandate of the museum is 'Preserving the History of the Annapolis Valley from Windsor to Digby.'

“We’re very relevant. We’re trying to stay current,” she said. “We’re always trying to evolve into new things and listen to people and what they’d like to see and what they’d like to have in the building and how we can better serve.”

With more than 14,000 artifacts, Slauenwhite said the museum houses not just the history of the Middleton area, but of the entire Valley.

CULTURAL HUB

Besides permanent and rotating exhibits, the museum has become a cultural hub.

“Not only do we have the exhibits and exciting things like the gala coming up which will help us pay winter oil, but we have American Sign Language, we have yoga, we have painting workshops, writers groups, we have theatre coming up here with the Youth Ambassador program and Diana (Farris),” she said. “She’s going to be doing a play here Dec. 13, 14, and 15 – her group that she has created for her ambassadorship.”

The high school did a production there for several days in the spring.

“So there’s all kinds of stuff happening all the time,” the director said. “Plus our farm market was for the community. It certainly wasn’t for us because we didn’t make money.”

They also rent space to different organizations for meetings and events.

HISTORY

Slauenwhite also sees the significance of the depth of history the building and its contents represent.
“So we’re extremely relevant and we’re anchored in a building that was built in 1903 – the first consolidated school in Canada,” she said. “So here we are in this wonderful old building that’s owned by the province. We’ve been here since 1982 and this collection has grown and grown and grown.”

There’s also the genealogy and research library that houses tons of information, thousands of newspapers, and there’s microfilm, and heritage of so many families, she said.

“We feel we’re protective of the building as well. This is an icon. When you come down the highway from either direction towards Middleton the sign says ‘Middleton, the home of Macdonald Museum,’” she said. “And we’d like it to say that in years to come. The future of the museum is important to the town. We are the big tourist attraction. We house the visitor information centre for the town. We work closely with the town. They have been so good to us.”

FUNDING

Despite attendance of more than 20,000 people last year, it hasn’t translated into revenue.

“We will be closing the doors in roughly two years if we cannot garner more financial support," Slauenwhite said. "We receive a grant each year but it amounts to only one quarter of our operating budget, so we must rely on monies from memberships, workshops, events, fundraisers, and donations."

She said there is a sense of urgency in the continued preservation of those 14,000 artifacts.

With that in mind, the museum staff and board are mounting two special fundraisers this fall with the help of artist Tom Forrestall.

Forrestall, a native of Middleton himself, has donated an original watercolor painting, worth $4,500 titled 'Delivery of Winter Wood.' The painting is to be raffled off and tickets are now on sale at the museum or from board members and volunteers for $25 each. The draw will be held on Dec. 13 at 10 a.m. at the museum.

FALL GALA

Forrestall also donated two large prints of his work and three original miniature watercolors that will be auctioned off on Nov. 2 at the museum's first annual 'Fall into Winter' gala dinner, auction, and dance at NSCC Middleton. One of the prints, valued at $750, is the door prize for the evening.

Tickets for the gala are $50 per person and are on sale at Scotiabank Middleton where sales are being price matched. The Rotary Club of Middleton is working with the museum to support the event. The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with nibbles, cash bar, and silent auction. Buffet dinner is at 7:15 p.m. followed by live auction and dance with the Mark Riley Project.

"The time has come for us to communicate our financial situation to those in the area who can help out. Reserves are depleting and our doors will be closing without a significant change in support" said Slauenwhite.

ALSO COMING UP

The annual ‘Christmas Craft Sale’ will still be happening on Nov. 22 and 23 with 60 vendors attending. And ‘Festival of Trees’ will return this year as well from Dec. 2 to 6.

Gala tickets are also available at the museum, as well as tickets on the Forrestall painting. Or email macdonald.museum@ns.sympatico.ca or call 902-825-6116 and arrangements will be made to get your tickets to you.

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