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This article was published 22/11/2014 (858 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A capacity crowd turned out Saturday to support efforts to reopen Dalnavert Museum.
In September 2013, the national heritage site was closed to the public. Later that fall, heritage and museum experts as well as volunteers from the museum formed a group to save it.
This weekend they held their first meeting to test public support.
Eighty-four people packed the visitors centre attached to the museum on Carlton Street for a two-hour presentation followed by a question-and-answer session.
Dalnavert is the former home of Hugh John Macdonald, the son of Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. Hugh John was a Manitoba premier and judge.
It was restored for $500,000 in the 1970s, but in recent years it fell out of public favour, despite Christmas and Halloween tours that once drew hundreds through its historic doors.
The Friends of Dalnavert is undertaking a study with the goal of seeing Dalnavert reopened as a museum, interim Friends chairwoman Adèle Hempel said.
"This is the first chance we've had to meet with the community and see who's interested," Hempel said.
History buffs mingled with members of community groups, St. Vital city Coun. Brian Mayes and various members of the Manitoba Historical Society, the organization that owns the museum.
Mayes made a point of announcing that despite the museum's closure, a $20,000 city grant from 2013 and another from this year are still available for Dalnavert.
With property taxes of about $14,000 a year, the grants have typically been used to pay the taxes each year.
The historical society's leadership has been largely reconstituted with strong museum supporters who are working closely with the Friends of Dalnavert. Most of the society's previous executive committee resigned last year over the Dalnavert furor.
"What we are interested in is the best thing for Dalnavert. We're not interested in a bunch of money and the Friends need freedom and control to operate without interference," said the society's current president, University of Manitoba professor and civic history advocate Harry Duckworth.
His remark was a reference to the highly public debate last fall.
At the time, the museum lost a sizeable private grant that covered most of its annual operating costs of about $100,000.
That loss prompted the museum's closure and led the society's leadership to mull publicly that perhaps it should be sold.
A proposal to use it as a resource centre for crime victims drew opposition from heritage groups that wanted to maintain the historic home as a museum.
Since then, the Friends of Dalnavert has come together, determined to reopen the museum.
The public presentation Saturday was to announce the historical society had obtained a $15,000 grant from the Winnipeg Foundation to allow the Friends to conduct a feasibility study toward the museum's reopening.