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Revised plan for campaign to display de Vries taxidermy collection

Council will review revisions to the campaign to house the significant taxidermy collection of the County’s late Jake de Vries.

The collection of about 500 items crafted by de Vries over more than 50 years is to be housed at the Ameliasburgh Heritage Village. The items range from waterfowl and song birds to mammals, reptiles and fish.

A report of the Community Development Department recommends $22,000 continues to be included in the museum’s capital budget for the purchase of exhibition cases and interpretive materials to display the collection, subject to the Jake de Vries Collection Group’s successful fundraising.

Volunteers at the museum identified the ‘Green Barn’ at the site as the preferred home, though it requires significant structural upgrades that the committee committed to fund at approximately $253,000. Council agreed to contribute $22,000 if fundraising targets were met.

The collection group began fundraising in June 2016 and has raised $62,260 to date. The passing of Jake’s wife Johanna de Vries earlier this year has prompted the group to reconsider plans in order to facilitate the collection’s transfer sooner.

The group seeks a scaled-back project proposing to use half of the Green Barn space with a new cost estimate of $154,000. The group plans to conclude fundraising in 2018 with the balance of funds targeted through foundation and grant applications. With 40 per cent of the project costs confirmed to date, the project could potentially be completed next year during the 50th anniversary of the museum.

Council is being asked to support the revised plan and keep the $22,000 for exhibition cases and interpretive museum in the museum’s capital budget.

While capital upgrades for the project will be funded by the collection group, it is proposed the County covers the yearly operating costs of electricity for the building – estimated to be about $700 per year.

If funds are not raised, Plan B for the volunteer group is to use funds raised to prepare the museum’s church “gallery” for the collection, though it is not the best space for the collection as several of the larger wall mounts cannot be displayed because of the ceiling height. High light levels due to large windows in the space, could also cause long-term damage.

John de Vries and Jane Moon inherited their father’s remarkable collection and helped launch the campaign, with their mother, in June last year. A site visit with an ornithologist from the Royal Ontario Museum determined the collection to be one of the finest private collections of taxidermy in the province.

With the passing of Johanna, the family is ready to move the collection from their home, pleased it could be held in public trust with the museum as the couple always opened their doors to school children and other interested groups to view and learn from the collection.

The de Vries story also tells a compelling tale about a post Second World War immigrant finding a new life in Prince Edward County and giving back to the community through his hobby.

 

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