Curator Ian Bowering of Cornwall Community Museum Reacts to Criticism before City Budget Committee – Has Syd Gardiner Been Removed? December 13, 2011

CFN –  Ian Bowering has been the curator for the Cornwall Community Museum in the Old Woodhouse for 33 years now.     That’s an awfully long time; but some, like City Councilor Syd Gardiner seem to think that it’s time for his funding to be cut and perhaps even send Mr. Bowering off to pasture.

The thing about Historians is that they usually have really good memories and understand the value of knowledge and information.    Mr. Bowering is at the budget meetings today for the city to present about the importance of the museum especially in an environment where the region is focusing on Arts & Culture.

I had a chance to catch up with him last week and shot this interview.


And he was gracious enough to send me a rough copy of the speech he will be reading this morning.

 I am here today on behalf of the volunteer Executive of the SD & G historical society and would like to offer our President, a history teacher Jeffrey Crooke’s regrets for not being able to attend.

Fortunately for the Society most of our executive is under 40 and working, and cannot get away during the day, leaving me.

I have also been asked to express the boards and my personal regret for the recent article in the STANDARD-FREEHOLDER.

 The Society has operated the WOOD HOUSE, the city’s owned museum for 55 years on a friendly and professional basis, and I have worked at the museum for over 30 years and deeply regret the fuss in the paper.

The City of Cornwall has been in the business of operating a COMMUNITY MUSEUM in the Wood House in a contractural partnership for half a century. The museum was the City’s and Federal government’s local YEAR 2000 project.

The City provides operational funding and the Society provides the collection, management and seeks to find all alternative sources of funding.

 By using the resources of the Society the City saves some 30 to 50% in its operations.

This year we are requesting the same amount as last year to operate the museum.

 SUSTAINABILITY – The volunteer historical society is made-up of tax paying people who understand the need to be careful with Municipal funds. In response to this need we reduced our permanent staff from two to one, and plan to seek alternative funding. We also spent $5,000 from the Society’s long-term savings to cover the deficit in operating funds.

For eg. Over the past dozen years the Society has raised over $365,000 and $400,000 of artifacts from 500 individuals, five service clubs (Kinsmen) and senior levels of government to operate the museum, and this does not include the $600,000 towards the restoration.

 In the same period we have had over 2,400 volunteer service hours and $40,000 of in-kind services.

 I believe this demonstrates our efforts towards sustainability.

THIS YEAR by keeping the budget static, WE HOPE to double the City’s funds through Trillium to hire a person TO HELP REVITALISE and PROMOTE THE MUSEUM for the next two years.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY – expenditure of the funds are a board decision, and all expenses are approved by executive members. Our books are kept by a professional arms-length accounting firm and then audited and reviewed not only by the auditor but Revenue Canada.

 Three years ago Revenue  Canada called a random snap review.   They planned to stay 3 days, but after 4 hours they said we are not going to find anything wrong and left.


 Cornwall is where modern Ontario began. During both World Wars we made the highest per capita contribution to the war effort in Canada.  We are home to one premier; fur trader Simon Fraser; Canada’s 1st Jewish mayor; and the home of safety legislation in the work place.

We have a rich, and proud multicultural history.

A museum is the holder of the Community’s memory and guardian of the past for the present and the future.    In many ways we are the heart and soul of the community.

SOCIALLY we are central to a healthful prosperous community, through our keeping and promotion of our shared heritage. We attract tourists and researchers from across North America and Europe. We are a centre of historic research and in the last year have provided educational resources , here are some egs.

Cornwall Police Services, various city departments, public schools, high schools, universities, St. Lawrence College, Tourism operators, the library, OPG and of course the general public.

A vital museum must be one of the pillars of the City’s new cultural initiatives and helps to provide the community with a strong SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT.

ECONOMIC – the museum is open year round as a tourist site and research centre. Every month of the year we have people come to Cornwall simply to use our resources.

 The museum also has a priceless collection, one now considered to be not only of local importance but NATIONAL significance.

We bring funds from senior levels of government into the community, plus funds from nationally based foundations, money that the city would not see.

Business leaders when they are selecting a new community to establish themselves are interested in the community’s quality of life, a viable museum is one of the indications of a positive quality of life.

The museum is contacted regularly about Cornwall’s cultural life and new residents to the City do make a point of visiting the museum.

ENVIRONMENT – The museum’s location in the park provides an ideal passive way to preserve our waterfront park, while attracting visitors. We also teamed up last year with TRANSITION CORNWALL and held several events to promote environmental awareness. As an educational institution this is part of our mandate.

We plan to continue this course and with yours and TRILLIUMS help increase the public’s awareness of our rich, shared past.

 It should be interesting to see how Mr. Bowering fares with Council.   We will be following up with an update as information becomes available.

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  1. Jamie
    I am not a huge fan of our museum but after hearing Mt Bowering today I feel a change in the winds.

    It is quite simple to understand why there has been a decline in the last dozen years. If we look at our provincial leader ship in Mr. Brownell we see a huge push for lost villages, I am confident the same could NOT be said for the local museum.

    Please send me the info on this article about the Kanab’s and Guindon’s dumbing down the people of Cornwall. I would love the read this paper written by the Poirier fellow at Ottawa University. I have heard those stories from many more senior locals over the years and it would be great to see what this fellow has to say.

    Maybe we can now seek a form of ethical and moral oppression by our former politicians. Kind of a twist on anti Semitism and so ironic as well

    I mean just take a look at who benefitted from keeping locals in the dark and uneducated.

  2. Mr Bowering has done great work for the city of Cornwall we miss and love Ian.

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