The Friends of Point Frederick: Why do we need a new building?

 

The Friends of Point Frederick: Why do we need a new building?

By Jim Barrett with input from various other sources

It’s a good question. Why, indeed, are we looking at a new building?

If our aim truly is to influence the way the Canadian public sees the Royal Military College, and beyond that to stimulate public thinking on the vital role of Canada’s military institution in building and sustaining our nation, then we have to be aggressive. There are sound and common-sense reasons (see below) for moving from a cozy, reclusive Tower far from the Gate to a visible and accessible site at the entry to the College but none of these is as compelling as the need to make those connections visible.

The RMCC Welcome Centre is a central piece of our Museum vision. Here, at the foot of Fort Henry Hill, a visitor can find an answer to the question, “What is this place?” and come away after an hour or two, thinking “My goodness! I had no idea.” And, prompted to look further, he and she can return to this Museum, or go to the Canadian War Museum, or think of visiting Juno Beach when next in France or of supporting the Canadian Bomber Command Museum back home in Alberta. (www.junobeach.org, www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/).

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Stop for a moment, and ask: Of all the military units, establishments and institutions In Canada, which one has the broadest sweep, and the farthest reach? Surely, the RMCC Museum is the least narrow of all military museums. Its scope sweeps our proud military story, but it also spans a unique facet of Canadian education, and a broad spectrum of service to Canada. Many Canadians who perhaps never suspected a military connection might discover here that their lives have been touched in some way by the work of graduates of RMCC, RRMC or CMR. It will be our job to show Canadians what that connection has been. That will be the daily task of the Curator and the professional Museum staff (more on that in a later Chapter).

With a visible location, a vigorous on-line presence, and active linkages to other community and military museums (www.c-and-e-museum.org/, /www.kingstonmuseums.ca/, http://kingstontrolley-px.rtrk.ca/index.cfm/highlights/), the RMCC Museum with its Welcome Centre can have an impact far beyond that expected from a small, parochial centre. In truth, that is the deep tradition and story of this College, a small institution whose fewer than 25000 graduates have made a greater contribution to this country than most Canadians imagine.

The Heritage and Museum Committee can be aggressive in ways that the College cannot. As a Committee of the Commandant, it must be faithful to the College’s mission and goals. But this Committee embodies both the accumulated insight that comes from long and committed service and the administrative muscle of active College staff. It has the persistence that can sustain a project of this magnitude through successive waves of College governance. And, with the assistance of the Friends of Point Frederick, it can seek funds from yet untapped donors.

I promised some business case reasons for the new building. The most prominent of these is that Fort Frederick Tower has been declared unsafe. Necessary renovations are estimated at $15 million, and these renovations will not provide a museum with acceptable environmental standards, adequate display space or disability access. There is no other building on the College grounds that could conceivably be repurposed as a museum. An additional concern is the ever more stringent application of DND security protocols. Some visitors have been told not to leave their cars nor take pictures; while such problems can be dealt with in the short term, prudent foresight suggests that an RMCC Museum and Welcome Centre “outside the wire” is a wise choice. Finally, the consultant’s recommended site seems close to ideal. It is indeed a prime location and it won’t be available forever. The old Tower made for a really neat Museum, with a history and an atmosphere all its own. Sadly, it will no longer do.

At last count we have had 23 comments reacting to Chapter 3, with some more detailed comments sent via e-mail. We are heartened by the wave of support and equally grateful for the thoughtful opposing views. We will try to address your concerns in this series of articles; you should find echoes of last week’s comments in this week’s chapter. Those who sent e-mails will receive individual responses (please be patient). As usual, please send comments, questions and other feedback to jim.barrett@rmc.ca or leave a comment in the box below.

Thanks for reading.

 Previous articles on the subject:

The Friends of Point Frederick: ‘Taking on a big task’

How do you fund a museum?