Donation of the Town of Sutton’s artifact collection to the Sutton Museum of Communications and History: a step towards the professionalization of the organization

At its April 3 municipal council meeting, the Town of Sutton announced that it was donating its artefact collection to the Sutton Museum of Communications and History (SMCH). The donation includes the signing of a management and promotion agreement for the collection, as well as a one-time financial contribution to enable the museum to carry out its new responsibilities. Through this donation and mandate, the Town is supporting the Museum in its professionalization process, which will lead to government accreditation..

Professionalization process and museum accreditation

As mentioned by Councillor Lynda Graham, who has been involved in the Museum’s activities for several years, the SMCH has embarked in a process of professionalization for nearly four years, with the aim of becoming a museum institution certified by the Quebec government. Such recognition would give the museum greater visibility and credibility, as well as access to government services and financial assistance programs, enabling it to better fulfill its mission.

In a professionalization study commissioned by the SMCH to the cultural company CulturEssor, it was highlighted that one of the priorities for obtaining accreditation is to have a full-time employee who is a professional museologist. The second essential element for professional development is to own a building and/or a collection of artefacts. Finally, it has been established that other small historical museum institutions in the region and elsewhere in Quebec have museum accreditation. This proves that this project is realistic for the Sutton Museum organization.

To achieve the first goal, Charles Constantin, Board President, along with Marie-Claude Plasse, the Town’s cultural officer, applied for and obtained a grant from the Government of Canada to hire a human resource for the position of museum coordinator. Since last September, Michel Harnois, a professional museologist with extensive experience in the field of collections, has been giving a new energy to the team of volunteers and to the professionalization project.

Discussions between the SMCH, the general management and the Town Council were initiated to discuss the first action to be taken to obtain accreditation: owning the building and/or the collection it houses. On the strength of his expertise, Mr. Harnois proposed that the SMCH become the owner of the artefact collection, and that the Town continue to use its capital asset skills by retaining management of the building. Following discussions, the Town agreed to donate its collection to the Museum, on condition that a collection management and promotion agreement was signed.

Agreement to manage, conserve and promote the collection

It is within this framework that a one-year agreement will shortly be signed between the Town and the SMCH, to ensure that the Museum respects the wishes of the original donor of the collection, Mr. Edmund Eberdt, as well as the terms and conditions relating to the conservation and promotion of the collection. This agreement will be accompanied by a one-time financial contribution of $55,835. This will be used to support the museum’s ongoing activities, including the preparation of the next temporary exhibition, and to finance the conservation and promotion of the collection. In addition, it will enable the organization to extend the contract of Michel Harnois, who will be responsible for taking the necessary steps to obtain the Quebec government’s accreditation of museum institutions, seeking funding for the upgrading of the building housing the museum and owned by the Town, and drafting reports on the progress of these mandates.

A brief history of the Museum and its collection

The Sutton Museum of Communications and History has been part of Sutton’s cultural landscape for 40 years. Its mission is to present the socio-economic, cultural and industrial history of the Brome-Missisquoi region. To this end, it organizes thematic temporary exhibitions and preserves and interprets a collection of artefacts dating, for the most part, from the first half of the 20th century. The establishment also carries out research aimed at identifying and highlighting the intangible heritage of the people of Sutton and the surrounding area.

Since it was founded in 1983 by Mr. Edmund Eberdt, the Museum has been dedicated to the history of Sutton, as well as to its founder’s passion for the history of communications. In the late 90s, Mr. Eberdt donated the museum building, artefacts and archives to the Town of Sutton to preserve its memory. Two Sutton organizations successively managed, coordinated and promoted the collection: first the Heritage Sutton historical society, then, from 2000, the Sutton Museum of Communications and History. Today, the collection includes more than 560 objects, classified according to 24 disciplines ranging, among others, from communications to railway history, from agriculture to photography, from the history of the Town to that of the Canton.