Museum “friends” group calls meeting

Mickey Dumont

The Portage Citizen —

With the recent announcement the Fort la Reine Museum’s executive director/curator contract has not been renewed and a new opening day has not been scheduled, a group — members and supporters of the museum — is forming to try and learn what direction the museum’s board is going.

The group has called a May 17 meeting and has invited the Fort la Reine museum board and elected members of both the Portage la Prairie city council and Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie. Both local governments have members on the museum board and partially fund its operations. RM Coun. Dale Wood chairs the museum board.

“Both councils and the museum board are invited to attend and hear these concerns directly from the public,” says Mitchell Omichinski, one of the organizers for the group. The meeting will take place on May 17 at 7 p.m. in the Crocus Room at Herman Prior Activity Centre. The meeting is organized by members and supporters of the museum.

Tracy Turner’s contract expired April 30 and the Fort la Reine Museum board decided to track a new direction after seven years with Turner at the lead.

“The community at large is surprised by this generally,” Omichinski said. “They (museum board) are pretty mum about why this took place and why the shift in direction.”

“The meeting is to have an open dialogue about the museum’s present situation and where the powers that be wish to take it,” said Josh Wright, another meeting organizer and a former museum employee.

“We’re just going in a different direction,” Fort la Reine Museum board Chair Dale Wood said last week. It is the only explanation on why Turner’s contract was not renewed or as explanation to what the new direction the board is wanting to take the museum in.

“For all in the Portage community who have interest in the Fort la Reine Museum, the public meeting is to share concerns and suggestions about the future of the museum,” Omichinski said.

The supporters of the museum group is disturbed by what they find is the lack of transparency and its perceived secrecy the Fort la Reine Museum board has cloaked its recent decisions and actions in.

“As members and supporters of the museum, we are concerned about sudden changes in direction given the past seven years of exceptional development and activity at the museum,” Omichinski said. “Where is it headed now? We don’t know.

“Does this have anything to do with Tracey Turner? Indirectly it does, because of the past record and growth and interest in the museum the past 7 years.”

Mitchell is not certain if museum board members or any elected councillors from the city and RM councils will attend. “It’s up to them. It’s a matter of how much stock they put in public accountability. People are surprised by what has happened at the museum and want to voice that surprise,” Omichinski said. “This is an election year.”

Mitchell and Wright have written letters to the editor that are published here in the Opinions forum.

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