Museums, historic sites support economy

Preserving history museums and historic sites help drive the economy, a representative from the Ontario Historical Society said here last week.
“History and heritage is not a frill, it is a significant part of the community that a lot of people don’t take seriously,” stressed Rob Leverty.
“We are not just culturally important to Canada, but we make an enormous contribution to the economy of Canada through tourism,” he argued.
Leverty was speaking at the Sunset Country Museums Network spring meeting, a two-day annual gathering of 11 district museum operators here in Fort Frances.
Leverty said historic sites bring thousands of tourism dollars into a community each year and losing them can make a big impact on the local economy.
He added the current situation with Fort St. Pierre and the Lookout Tower at Pither’s Point here, which have been closed indefinitely until maintenance repairs and safety upgrades are done, is being seen across the province as historic sites are simply cut out of shrinking budgets.
“We need to make the most of those important assets,” Leverty urged.
He addressed other issues facing museums, including the constant funding struggle to keep their doors open.
He said many groups have steered completely away from government grants due to delays of up to two years in actually receiving any money. “Some groups are so frustrated by the delays that they almost are held hostage to it,” he remarked.
Leverty suggested a regional voice representing heritage sites and museums might be an effective way to lobby for money and recognition. He added a common Web site, where each of the historic sites is explained and linked with the group, might be another way to coax more people in.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing historic groups in addition to funding is the fight for volunteers.
“There is a crisis across the province,” Leverty warned. “The younger generation is so busy. They are all so busy trying to put food on the table that they can’t do the amount of public service that’s needed.”