Mississippi Mills’ dynamic little museum

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by Edith Cody-RiceMississippi Valley Textile Museum

The MVTM was founded about 26 years ago in a Mill Street storefront in Almonte and later moved to its current location in the former annex to the Rosamond Woolen Company in Almonte, which the museum owns through a corporation. the museum's  mandate is to interpret the history of the woolen industry in the Mississippi River Valley including its social and cultural influences as well as to interpret the story of the textile industry in Canada. It also provides a centre for the study of industrial textiles, exhibits fibre arts and encourages the preservation of the museum's building and artifacts. 

This is an imaginative institution. Not only does it attract exhibits, the museum offers student activities such as the Teddybear workshop (in which students make a teddy bear), Beginner Weaving and Fashion Camp to involve youth in the museum and in the arts.

 An example of the museum's innovative approach to getting things done with limited funds is the repointing of the stone work of the building which has been going on for 6 years. MVTM has partnered with the Algonquin College Heritage Masonry program in Perth to supply manpower for the repointing. The museum pays for materials only and while the students acquire practical experience, the museum improves the expensive stonework at a very modest cost.

Museum personnel have undertaken a reorganization of the large library of artifacts and have digitized 95% of the artifacts so far. Michael feels that much of any museum's collection is always in storage and he wants to make the valuable artifacts as accessible as possible. He is currently looking for funding for the remaining digitization. 

  Another big future project for the museum is the restoration of the eaves and windows. Michael is currently researching costs. The ultimate goal is to complete the restoration  and return paint to original colours – dark chocolate brown for the office building and cream for the warehouse/museum.

In June, 2011, MVTM opened its permanent exhibition on the second floor, Fabric of a Small Town. The exhibit contains machinery, artifacts and recreated textiles from the operating mill and provides an education in the history of Almonte and of the now much reduced wool milling industry in this country. Once again, innovating to save costs, the museum involved the Algonquin College of Applied Museum Studies program. Over a period of three years its students contributed to the design and implementation of the exhibition, giving them valuable experience and the museum an exhibition at an affordable cost.


The curator salary is paid by the Town of Mississippi Mills but all other activities must be funded by grants and donations from the public. The museum has launched a fund raising campaign to update the facilities, initiate some new educational programs for youth, and continue to feature textile art exhibits throughout the year. The goal of the campaign is $50,000 which the museum intends to achieve by way of a monthly giving program,the establishment of a museum foundation to secure larger donations and bequests, increasing corporate donations and memberships, establishing partnerships with other organizations to expand the potential for fund raising activities and approaching potential donors outside of the Mississippi Mills area.

The 16th annual Fibrefest exhibition which will take place September 10 and 11, will also raise funds for the museum.A wine and cheese festival is planned at which food and wine vendors from Almonte will offer delicacies for sale. Attendees will pay an entrance fee which will entitle them to three tickets for goodies, with the option to purchase more tickets. The vendors get exposure, the audience enjoys a delicious evening out and the museum benefits financially.

On the last Saturday of November, there will be an art auction to benefit the museum at the Fezziwig's Victorian Christmas Celebration, named after the benevolent employer of the young Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

The museum also has a fine gift shop with artistic products from Ottawa Valley and City of Ottawa artists.

The audience for the museum is drawn from the Ottawa Valley and the City of Ottawa. Currently between 2000 and 5000 people visit the museum each year. Michael would like to see the museum attract 5,000 or more people yearly on a consistent basis.

Michael has a passion for this museum. He studied fine arts at Fanshawe College in London, then moved to Ottawa to study Applied Museum Studies at Algonquin. A teacher asked him along to an exhibit in the MVTM and he fell in love with the place. He volunteered at the museum, then in 2007 when the job of curator/executive director became available, he applied and was hired.

This museum is going places with a dynamic board headed by Alan Jones and deserves community support.

The museum is now fully accessible with ramps from the parking lot and an accessible bathroom for those with disabilties

Michael at his desk Michael Rikley-Lancaster, Executive Director/Curator, at his desk 

Current Rotating  Exhibits

Woven Exhibition Woven Exhibition: works left to right: feathers, Fleche and Stiches by Leigh Archibald; Red Tree by Denise Dowdy

Home Children Quilt Home Child Memorial Qullt by Gail Collins

Fabric of a Small Town Permanent Exhibition

Cop Winder Cop Winder
 Reid's Clothing Store 
Original signs from Thomas J. Reid Clothing store on Mill Street in Almonte along with a sewing machine
Rewoven samples of Rosamund mill cloth, 
Rosamond Mills fabric rewoven from original samples by Weavers Unlimited in the Fabric of a Small Town exhibit
 

The Museum Shop

 Apparel in Gift Shop GIft shop clothing, left to right: silk slip-on jackets made by the West Carleton Fibre Guild who created the project at the museum and donated the finished products to the Museum Gift Shop: brown boiled wool jacket  and silk and wool hat by Francesca Overend of  the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild

Llama ProductsLlama Products by HIdden Touch Natural Yarns;pottery yarn dispiensers by Carolyn GIbbs of Almonte
 
 
Accomplishments in 2004 – 2010

NOTE: The work below has been the focus for the museum to complete in order to get the building up to current accessibility and museum standards. Once the building’s structural problems and temperature control problems are addressed and the building is properly heated and air conditioned, we can enhance the care and prolonged life expectancy of our artifact collection and start rotating the artifact collection on special exhibition. Also once these major building issues are addressed we can expand on our incoming traveling exhibition and get even more stellar exhibitions of the same if not stronger caliber as the Bayeux Tapestry that revisited the museum in 2010.

  1. Foundation
    • fixed the foundation of the museum from water infiltration, which included;
    • re-pointing
    • installation of a new sump pump
    • insulation of masonry walls below grade
    • correction of exterior surface drainage
  2. Windows
    • removed deteriorated limestone and red sandstone window sills and replaced with replicas. Re-installed replica glass in the two main entrance doors of the museum.
  3. Walls
    • re-pointing exterior north, east and west walls.
  4. Floor
    • replaced lower gallery floor with concrete. Portion of upper gallery floor was replaced with wood planked flooring.
  5. Ceiling
    • insulated, drywalled and installed gallery lighting in the second floor gallery ceiling.
  6. Safety
    • Installed panic hardware on all emergency doors of building. Installed emergency lighting and emergency light up signage.
  7. Exterior
    • addressed north exterior landscaping and added more parking. Inspection and correction of sewers.
  8. Re-branding of the museum
    • designed new logo, new website and first phase of new signage throughout the Town of Mississippi Mills.
  9. Research and artifact collection
    • – catalogued the museums library collection and started digitization of the artifact collection.

Approx. TOTAL: $646,817

Goals for 2011

Major goals/activities for 2011

  1. Start first phase of making the museum accessible for all patrons.
    • Apply for funding to remove and replace the existing entrance stair and landing at the north entrance to the Counting House and warehouse with a wheelchair ramp and new stairs.
    • Apply for funds to install a new accessible washroom on the first floor of the museum.
    • Apply for funds to revamp the accessible washroom on the second floor of the museum to current accessible standards.
  2. Temperature controls for the museum
    • Apply for funds and install furnaces and duct work in warehouse.
    • Apply for funds to purchase and install air conditioning for the whole of the museum building.
  3. Organized storage
    • Raise funds to construct framed, drywalled and locked storage areas in lower warehouse gallery, to store chairs, tables and showcases and to hide electrical breaker boxes.
  4. Safety and security
    • Apply for funds to install heat, smoke, water detection and alarm system in exit stairs, storage rooms, service rooms, concealed spaces (attic & crawl space, janitors closets and where hazardous material is stored.
  5. Research and artifact collection
    • Continue digitization of the collection with a plan to launch the artifacts onto the MVTM website at www.mvtm.ca
  6. Education and programming
    • Establish a committee that will focus on developing educational and outreach programs local schools.
  7. Exhibitions
    • Revamp and raise funds to install an industrial textile history exhibit in conjunction with the Algonquin College
  8. Applied Museum Studies Progam.
    • The upper floor gallery will be transformed into a permanent working history exhibit and education area working with Algonquin College Museum Studies students.
  9. Rotating exhibitions gallery
    • The lower gallery will always be used on a rotational basis for contemporary, traditional fibre art and history exhibits, rentals and by other community groups. (Valley Voices Choir, Valley Players of Almonte…)
  10. Revenue Generating
    • Launch phase one of revamped revenue generating (new workshops and fundraising event programs).
    • ?

Approx. Subtotal: $211,620