Having fallen behind on payments, the Fernie Museum faces the possibility of having its grant contract with the City canceled, as the Historical Society hopes to have unpaid debts settled by November.
The City of Fernie has issued a notice that it must cancel its agreement with the Fernie Historical Society, due to the current financial instability of the Museum. The agreement would normally end in December, but the date has been moved into November.
A Restart Committee has been formed to try coming up with a strategy to keep the museum afloat.
“The Fernie Museum has found itself hitting a big speedbump this year, not only with the COVID pandemic, but they’ve basically overspent significantly and ran out of money to pay their bills,” said Kevin Allen, head of the Restart Committee. “Many of the board members have resigned.”
After its annual general meeting on Thursday, eight new board members stepped up to fill vacant positions.
Issues with budget management in the past has been blamed for the economic hardship the museum is currently in.
“They had a very ambitious executive director who had been there for about four or five years and maybe wasn’t the best money manager and pulled a lot of things out of the hat at the last minute,” said Allen. “Things accumulated over time, and the house of cards collapsed this year.”
Allen said the museum serve as more than just a tourist destination for the community.
“It has an important role for the community as an archive of artifacts and papers and documents of Fernie’s past. It’s important for researchers and people who are studying genealogy and the history of Fernie,” explained Allen.
Despite the dire situation, the community has shown its support to the Historical Society.
“We’ve been putting out our call for help, and we’ve been getting a really big response,” said Allen. “We know that the people of Fernie and the Elk Valley really value the Fernie Museum.”
A portion of the expenses of the museum have been forgiven or funded by donations.
“I’m happy to report that lots of people have been coming out of the woodwork saying they can donate money or time, really generous offers,” said Allen. “It’s our ambition that we can right the ship completely and pay all of the creditors the museum owes. We’ve already had initial talks with many of them, and some of them are donating the outstanding bills back to the museum.”
The Restart Committee is also working on other fundraising plans to pay back the money it owes to various creditors.
Those interested in supporting the museum can do so here.