Described as the saviour and backbone of the Glace Bay Heritage Museum, Elke Ibrahim says she may take off her hat — maybe even all 20 of them.
Ibrahim, vice-chair of the Glace Bay Heritage Museum Society, said if the society doesn’t get capital and operating funds from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, it might be forced to hand the museum back to the CBRM.
“It is a dire situation now, very dire,” she said. “If we have to close down then we’ll have to turn the heritage building back to the municipality.
“It totally makes me so sad that there’s not value left in this last heritage building and museum for them to justify solid assistance on an annual basis.”
For the past 18 years, Ibrahim has been a full-time volunteer at the museum, doing everything from washing toilets to selling plants to raise money for furnace oil.
Ibrahim said the CBRM doesn’t seem to see the value in volunteers who spend a lot of their own money and time every day.
“I’m the museum curator and manager, the building and grounds manager, fundraiser, proposal writer and tour guide. I’m the volunteer co-ordinator, teacher of students, host to most events happening here, events planner, letter writer and I’m responsible for placement workers. I’m even the jam maker and knitter for the town hall, the cleaner — and the list goes on and on.”
When the society first started about 20 years ago it received $20,000 from the CBRM but very
little since, she said, noting “we never received any operating money, ever.”
Over the years Ibrahim said they have received some funds, including through Heritage Canada and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for building restoration, a process painstakingly being done “bit by bit.”
“We’ve received $10,000 here and there and put a new window in or put a new door in here and there.”
About three weeks ago, Ibrahim made a plea for $40,000 in funding to CBRM council but was denied.
“I’m very sad,” she said, adding this is the third year in a row they’ve been turned down for funding.
“Things are leaking, we need a new chimney, a roof and operation money for the dayto-day,” she said. “It’s been very hard here, it’s a poor town and we don’t have any young people to help.”
Ibrahim said the CBRM now want the museum to make another presentation in order to apply for funds through the sustainability fund, which she says has already been done.
“The most we could get from the sustainability fund is $10,000 and that won’t even pay the oil bill.”
Ibrahim said the building is 115 years old and houses thousands of irreplaceable photographs
and artifacts of what was once Canada’s largest town. In Europe, buildings 500 and 1,000 years old and are treasured, taken care of and funded, she added.
“Canadians go to Europe to see all these buildings and we have it right here in our own backyard and nobody can support it.”
Ibrahim said the museum also provides community services, hosting everything from book launches to jewelry shows, university courses, weddings, meetings, tours and much more.
As well, she said, they provide placements for summer students, historical justice and community services. “
“If the museum, goes you might as well pack up Glace Bay.”
Dist. 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger, said a meeting is being held March 19 at 10 a.m. for council and mayor to meet with local museums.
“There’s eight of them in the CBRM called to come to the meeting — including the schoolhouse museum in Dominion — because they are all looking for funding.”
Bruckschwaiger said the money that is left right now with the budget that’s approved is the sustainability fund.
“We’re going to have a separate conversation on that date with the museums to see if there is any way we can help and if there’s any money we can
give,” he said.
“Hopefully there will be some money for some of the museums out there.”
Bruckschwaiger with the CBRM’s current conditions there’s no regular new funding that can be established for any museums.
“We just went through a budget that was extremely difficult and it’s not getting easier.”
Bruckschwaiger said the CBRM’s infrastructure is lacking, the roads and sidewalks are in bad shape and they need replacements and new ones.
“There’s a lot of good things happening out there too and no question about it we should be able to do more for these nonprofit groups working hard to keep facilities open that are important to the communities,” he said.
“We find ourselves in this situation where there’s just not enough money to do it all.”
Dist. 9 Coun. George MacDonald said the CBRM is trying to find money for the Glace Bay Heritage Museum, but it will go through the sustainably fund.
“We’re optimistic she will get some funding under the sustainability fund but how much, we don’t know,” he said.
MacDonald said the Glace Bay museum was turned down during the capital budget, but added that all museums were put off until the sustainability committee meets in April.
“There are four or five museums looking for money, but Elke is on the top of our list in Glace Bay,” he said.