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Exploring options for a Hamilton Museum

A city staff report is suggesting Hamilton consider establishing a Civic museum. The report notes “Though the City of Hamilton owns and operates eight civic museums, each has a specific site-based interpretive mandate and offers related programming. There is at present no dedicated space for city-wide exhibits or programs that are not part of an existing historic site.”

“Dundurn Castle served as Hamilton’s Civic Museum from 1900 to 1967 before opening as a restored historic house museum in 1968. Since that time, there has been public interest in the idea of a museum which would once again engage with the history of the whole city.”

The report says the Tourism and Culture division has engaged a consultant to develop a museum strategy and to engage with the community and found there was broad support for a Hamilton museum. Council will get a look at a strategy report next year.

The Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) has also expressed interest in a Museum of Hamilton. They received funding from the Canada Cultural Spaces fund to support a feasibility study for a significant renovation of the Art Gallery of Hamilton and an expansion of the AGH’s mandate to further educate visitors about the community’s history. As noted by AGH President and CEO Shelly Falconer in the media release, “this grant will also pave the way for a civic museum that will facilitate the celebration of Hamilton’s history by our citizens and visitors alike.”

There is an ad hoc community group called the Hamilton Museum Citizen’s Committee formed to support the creation of a permanent Hamilton Museum to present and preserve local history. City staff met with the group several times during the year. Its members participated in stakeholder sessions and focus groups during the Hamilton Civic Museum Strategy citizen engagement.

The report appears to lean towards an on-line museum as a first step noting, “a virtual museum approach offers significant and cost-effective potential for not just responding to COVID19, but also for offering content and experiences that will complement and expand in person offerings at the existing civic museums. With additional resources dedicated to the development, facilitation and sharing of broad Hamilton stories, this online engagement approach could be expanded into a virtual Museum of Hamilton.”

There are already significant online resources in the community. The Hamilton Public Library Special Collections Department has local newspapers, photographs  and other resources in digital format. Whitehern has digitized most of the McQuesten Family photographs and letters. McMaster University also has significant digital historical resources.

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