Railway museum setting off in new directions

Relaunch will see the museum become the Cranbrook History Centre.

Arne Petryshen file photo Charlotte Murray

Arne Petryshen file photo Charlotte Murray

The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is setting off on a new track that directors hope will make a more diversified destination museum for the area.

The relaunch will see the museum become the Cranbrook History Centre.

At city council on Monday, Charlotte Murray, executive director of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, said they aim to increase sustainability while expanding audiences, and increase the value of the museum to the people of Cranbrook, while being responsible stewards of the collections.

“Interest in our trains has been declining, to survive we needed to broaden our appeal,” Murray said.

In 2013, the board and director at the time determined that the organization needed to go in a new direction.

They determined that the guiding principals would direct the new direction.

“Broadening our audience base is going to be huge,” Murray said. “We will engage our residents by changing exhibitions which will focus on history, art, culture and nature.”

Murray said they will also be creating new programs, such as education programs for students and families, and special events.

“We want to engage our community — we want to bring the residents of Cranbrook into that facility,” she said. “I think for too long we’ve been at arms length and we want the community to know that we are open for business, we are welcoming and that it is indeed for the citizens.”

Murray said it is difficult for museums to find a balance between, restoration and interpretation of their collections.

“We’re doing this by assessing our collection and determining what is our prime ship of revenue generators and determining what will happen to the rest of our collection,” she said.

Back in 2013, the museum board engaged a marketing agency. The agency determined that the museum’s vision for the future was not accurately described in the name Canadian Museum of Rail Travel.

The Cranbrook History Centre will act as an umbrella for Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, the Cranbrook Archives, the Royal Alexandra Hall and the Cranbrook Museum.

The Cranbrook Museum will have galleries with local history exhibits, geology, palaeontology and natural history.

“This will encompass all that we are in Cranbrook,” she said, adding that between Calgary and Vancouver there is nothing that quite meets up to what the museum has.

“We have huge potential.”

She said they want to enhance the “nationally important” collection of railway legacy.

“This is something that we want to build on. We want to enhance our collection and scale down to something that is significant.”

Murray said they are also decreasing reliance on financial support from the city over time in favour of self-reliance.

“We are working to maximize the return on the city’s investment for the five years, we want to multiply the funding that we have attracted from provincial, federal and private sources. Already we have attracted millions of dollars in capital investment from non-municipal sources.”

She said over the past 10 years they have raised over $8.2 million. They hope to raise between $1.5 and $2.5 million from non-municipal and private sources in the next five years.

Coun. Isaac Hockley noted that the museum would be a great location for the Cranbrook and District Arts Council.

Murray said she has a list from some time ago that outlines the art council’s issues with moving in there. Murray also saw issues.

“We have considered this, but we just don’t feel that it is a partnership that would work for each other,” she said.

Coun. Norma Blissett was excited about the prospects of the museum and hoped to see some logging history.

Council will have an opportunity to view the facility later in February and discuss the changes coming to the museum.