Museum fees being waived during off-season

Duane Hicks

While user fees will be going up in the new year at other town facilities, admission rates to the Fort Frances Museum have been waived during the off-season (Thanksgiving to Victoria Day) for a two-year trial basis.
The museum, however, will put out a box to collect donations from visitors during that time.
As well, admission to the museum and heritage sites will remain status quo during the peak season.
The request from museum curator Sherry George to do so was approved by council earlier this week.
In an interview yesterday, George said she feels the changes will make the museum more visitor-friendly, like how many view the public library.
“We want people to make this a drop-by spot,” she explained.
“Right now, we change out the exhibits four or five times a year and for people to come in and pay admission fees each time they come in to check something out, it’s fairly costly.
“For some people, it’s too costly,” she stressed. “If you see a family with children come in, the $10.50 fee is too much.
“We’d like to see people, if they have five minutes left in their lunch hour or maybe they’re waiting for somebody to finish shopping uptown, to feel comfortable dropping in for a few minutes and not feel that they have to pay $3.50 each time,” George added.
Citing an example, George said there’s at least one older gentlemen who comes by regularly to read the museum’s copies of the “Mandonian,” the local pulp and paper mill’s in-house publication from 1946-65.
“That one fellow will sit there for a couple hours at a time, and he does it quite often,” she noted.
“You don’t want to be charging him—he’s a retiree—every time he comes through the door.”
By asking for a donation instead of a fixed admission during the off-season, George said people may be apt to stop by more often when they have spare time, see what’s new, and perhaps bring back friends or family.
She added this operating model has been adopted successfully elsewhere.
The museum will continue to track attendance during this time, just as it does during the peak season.
In related news, admission fees during the peak season will not rise three percent in 2012, unlike the majority of the town’s user fees.
George said tourism across Ontario was down five percent this year, calls to the 1-800-ONTARIO tourist information number were down 35 percent, and tourism here shouldn’t be discouraged by increasing fees.
Peak-season admission fees are $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors and children under 12, and $10.50 for a family.
But George stressed the fee is a good value, as it not only includes admission to the museum but also the lookout tower and Hallett on the riverfront.
The museum’s winter hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
It will be closed Dec. 22-Jan. 4 for the holidays.