THUNDER BAY -- The Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village opened its gates to visitors on Saturday for the first time in nearly a year.
The historical site on Highway 61, which looked like it was going to close permanently last year after financial and legal troubles, held a grand re-opening event to celebrate its new beginning.
Curator Lois Garrity said it is wonderful to not only be back open to the public but know it is on solid footing for the future.
That will allow staff and volunteers to fulfill the original mandate of being an interactive museum.
“We wanted children to come from the schools and be able to put their hands on the artifacts and see how they were used and what they were used for,” Garrity said.
“I think it’s nice for the future generations to learn how it was and there are still a few, like me, who remember exactly how it was and used these artifacts.”
The Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge took over the museum and pioneer village earlier this year after the board resigned in November 2013 over concerns they would be financially or legally liable for decisions made by past boards.
It was reported the museum owed $45,000 and there were some missing artifacts.
Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis said the history the pioneer village holds was too important to the community to lose.
“You can’t let it disappear because when it’s gone it’s not coming back. It was an opportunity we couldn’t let go,” Kloosterhuis said.
Kloosterhuis said the combination of a responsible board and the municipality overseeing operations should ensure the dire situation doesn’t repeat itself.
With all that in the past, there was a much more optimistic and energetic tone on the grounds during the grand reopening.
The brief ceremony to celebrate the re-opening filled the Slate River Valley Community Hall and cars filled the parking lot and lined adjacent Gillespie Road.
Mark Kluensch, who has been a frequent visitor in the past, said the site is a snapshot of the area’s past and an important reminder of the old way of life to the younger generations.
“We were saddened when we had heard they were closed and about the difficulties,” Kluensch said.
“When we heard it was re-opening we had to come out and see it again. I think it’s very important for Oliver Paipoonge and Thunder Bay as an area, not just for tourism but to keep our heritage alive.
Kloosterhuis said she hopes the facilities on site can be used by outside partners to turn the museum and village into a community hub and help guarantee its long-term viability.
That will help allow the museum and village to be accessible to prospective visitors.
“It’s hopefully going to be an area where anybody can stop and see anything they’d like to see,” she said.
The museum and pioneer village will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. through to Sept. 14.
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