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Scout Guide Museum will be history without a new home

visitors-to-the-musuem

Visitors to the museum. Photos from the Scout Guide Museum Facebook.

The history of scouts and guides could become history if the local museum can’t find a new home.

For twenty eight years at the Sir James Whitney School, the Belleville Scout-Guide Museum, one of the largest museums of its kind in the world has been welcoming guests from around the world to see the more than 50,000 items, including 4,000 books.

Wednesday, Paul Deryaw, the museum’s curator, confirmed the Ontario Reality Company, owner of the building, had informed him the museum will have to pay $419,000 under a new five-year lease starting Sept. 1st, 2015.

He said that until 2013, there had been no charges to the museum for use of the space, but half way through the present lease a fee of $100 per year was required, and was paid by Deryaw.

Scouts Canada, the organization under which the museum falls, is non-profit organization with all its funds going towards youth programs. Deryaw said neither Scouts Canada or the museum are in a position to meet the new leasing fees.

Following a tour of the museum, MPP Todd Smith, has been trying to negotiate a solution with the Ministry of Economic Development and Employment.

This photograph, from Poppi Schoenthaler, is shared on the Belleville Scout Guide Museum Facebook as a great reminder of the service that Scouts and Guides did during the First World War.

This photograph, from Poppi Schoenthaler, is shared on the Belleville Scout Guide Museum Facebook as a great reminder of the service that Scouts and Guides did during the First World War.

The Belleville Scout-Guide Museum was established in 1976 by Ron Moon, a manger at Corby Distilleries, who was looking for a way to display his collection which was too large for his house. Moon, with the help of the former Belleville District Council and St. Thomas Anglican Church, set up the first museum on the top floor of the old St. Thomas Parish Hall on Bridge Street East. The early collection was small and was displayed in one small room and a hallway. In 1987 St. Thomas Anglican Church decided to sell the parish hall and manse in order to build a new hall attached to the church.

It was then that David Bentley, the museum’s curator for 25 years, approached Guy Buller, former Superintendent of the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf, about using the empty basement space in one of the school’s buildings. The museum’s new location was officially opened in May 1987 by Jim Blain, Chief Executive Officer for Scouts Canada, Mayor George Zegouras, and Buller, Superintendent of Sir James Whitney and Sagonaska Schools. In 2003 the museum was asked by the school to move to its current location on campus.

“We will really miss being at Sir James Whitney,” said Deryaw. “The school was very kind to us by giving us space for such a long time. The school staff were always ready to help out if there was a problem, and it won’t seem quite the same not being there.”

Bentley, when informed of the move said that he would also miss the Sir James Whitney site.

“I have worked at the school for forty four years as a residence counsellor and as a casual, so my car automatically heads that way each day. It’s like a second home for me, especially with the museum located on the campus.”

The museum needs a new location that has about 6,000 square feet to accommodate all the items.

“It would be a shame if the items had to be placed into long-term storage,” said Deryaw. “A lot of the items in the museum need careful handling and preservation, so a long period of time in storage won’t help them. These items are an important part of Canada’s Scouting and Guiding history, as well as the history of the two movements in this area. It will be imperative that we get the museum back into operation as quickly as possible.”

The museum needs approximately 6,000 sq. feet of space and since it is a non-profit organization the space needs to be donated or offered at a fairly low rental fee. If you can help, contact Paul Deryaw, Curator, at 966-2740 or David Bentley at 968-7605

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