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History keepers fear for museum’s future

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Keepers of the Charleswood Historical Museum are worried about losing their home at the Charleswood Senior Centre and are making contingency plans.

Several members of the Charleswood Historical Society (CHS), including museum chair Gwen Jamieson, have said that Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck warned them in February the Charleswood Senior Centre on Roblin Blvd., where the museum is now housed, may have a date with the wrecking ball.

"She told us that at our centennial meeting last November too," said CHS president Len Van Roon.

Van Roon said integrating the museum with the new library being planned for Charleswood is the preferred option if they can’t remain at the senior centre. Their second choice would be moving into the existing library building, which sits next door to the centre.

On March 6, the city issued a request for expressions of interest for building a new library within a 2.5 kilometre radius of the existing one. The document details all required rooms and facilities for a new 14,000 square foot building, but makes no reference to museum space.

Van Roon said Coun. Havixbeck has been supportive of the CHS in the past, and he’s hopeful the uncertainty surrounding the museum’s future will be settled soon.

"We’re very interested in meeting and working with her on this. We want to establish a joint position with her."

Van Roon said in the past it’s been suggested to the CHS that they could move the museum to Caron House, a 1906 farmhouse on the bank of the Assiniboine River preserved by the CHS. That option is not viable, he said, because there are tenants living there, the location is too remote, and the risk of vandalism is high.

Coun. Havixbeck said the fate of the seniors’ centre, or whether the existing library building would be available for housing the museum, is out of her hands.

"It’s the Community Services Department," she said.

It is possible, she said, that the centre will be torn down, along with the existing library, once a proposal for new library construction is decided on.
"Nobody knows. It’s something that would be done, in consultation, with all of the users. It all depends on what these (library) proposals come in as."

The deadline for proposals is April 8.

Van Roon’s father, Len Sr., said the existing library next door brings visitors to the museum.

"The number of people that come in here and they’ve got an armload of books…that’s our main source of interest," said Len Sr., 91, who collected many of the hundreds of museum pieces. A plaque on the museum door labels Len Sr. and his late wife Verna as "The Keepers" of the museum.

Len Sr. points to a wicket from the original Charleswood post office – rescued by his son just two days before the building burnt down in the 1980s – and an organ as two of his favourite museum items.

"That was the original United Church organ in a little church that we had at the corner of Harstone and Roblin. My wife and I were married in that church," he said.

Jamieson said Len Sr. brings living colour to the museum.

"Mr. Van Roon here has information on probably every artifact and where it came from in this museum. People come in here and just walk around enchanted listening to his stories."

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