When thinking about advocacy, I generally think of major campaigns.
For example, in 2011, about two hundred people showed up at Montgomery’s Inn (Toronto) to oppose rumored cuts to the City’s museums, which would have closed the historic site. There was also a petition and social media campaign. These advocacy efforts worked. Yay. If you would like to learn more, click here for an article about the efforts.
These kinds of campaigns are incredibly important because, as seen with the Toronto example, they can work! However, effective advocacy is not limited to a one day event or short term social media push. These efforts are most effective when paired with ongoing relationship building.
I have heard about the importance of relationship building at the local, provincial, and federal levels from museum professionals in Ontario and New Brunswick when researching community museum policy.
In my research for the Dawson City Museum Project, I am seeing the same thing. Ongoing relationship building with politicians is important. Fostering positive relationships can lead to more visibility and attention to museums within the legislature.
For example, after returning from a visit to Teslin in 2001, an MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) asked the Minister of Tourism about the Museum Advisor’s recommendations to the George Johnston Museum and was able to get a commitment to fix an issue the Museum was having with their signage (Source). In this example, the Museum’s relationship building with their MLA led to concrete and immediate results.
The MacBride Museum provides a more entertaining example.
The MacBride Museum and Some Delicious Sandwiches
The MacBride Museum is located in Whitehorse – the capital of Yukon and where the Legislative Assembly sits. While there are other community museums in the area (e.g., Old Log Church Museum), the MacBride is larger, older, and has historically had better organization capacity.
The MacBride Museum is mentioned in the Legislature minutes more than any other Yukon community museum. A search for “MacBride Museum” in Hansard yields 125 results and a search for “McBride Museum” yields another five, meaning MLAs mention the museum in at least 130 sittings (I say at least because the search function can be unreliable). In comparison, “Old Log Church Museum” yields 5 results and “Dawson City Museum” yields 44 (“Dawson Museum” yields another 22 results but there is some overlap). While the Old Log Church Museum was established more recently and is much smaller, the Dawson City Museum and MacBride were both originally established in the 50s and, until recently, received the same amount in operational funding from the territorial government.
Why do the MLAs mention the MacBride Museum so much more than other community museums?
The Simple Explanation
The simplest explanation is that the MacBride Museum is in Whitehorse and has a longer history than other Whitehorse community museums. As a result, it may be the only museum some MLAs know to mention.
The Way to an MLAs Heart = Sandwiches
There is also a more entertaining explanation.
The MacBride Museum has held events for MLAs, which get mentioned in the minutes and keep the museum’s complaints fresh in their minds. One day, an opposition member decided it was important to push for more funding to the MacBride Museum (specifically and without consideration of other community museums) after the MacBride had fed the MLAs a “marvelous lunch” and told them about their troubles between sandwich bites.
The opposition member stated:
The Minister responded that if they gave the MacBride museum increased funding, all the community museums would require more money because there was a formula.
The opposition member was not convinced and continued to refer back to the information the MacBride provided at lunch, concluding:
The lunch did not lead to an immediate funding increase. However, it is indicative of the MacBride’s relationship building with MLAs, which does not include the other community museums. The MacBride is good at being remembered.
Why is this significant?
Historically, the MacBride Museum and Dawson City Museum (DCM) received the same operational grant from Yukon.
1950s: As early as 1957, the federal government provided $1,000 to the territory for museums, which the MacBride and DCM split equally.
1980s: While the DCM and MacBride eventually started receiving the same operating grant again, the MacBride received less operational funds than both the DCM and Old Log Church museum when the territorial program for museums began in the 80s.
Please note: This section was added after the post was originally published to incorporate information from the Lord report.
2014: Both museums received $100,000 from the territory’s Museum Contribution Program (MCP).
Then, the Cole Report (2014) recommended increased funding through the MCP. One option involved an additional fee for service agreement with both the MacBride and DCM.
2015 and Beyond: In 2015, Yukon began a 30% increase to the museum grants.
As a result, the DCM now receives S130,000 from the MCP. The MacBride received a much larger increase. Yukon’s 2019-2020 public statements indicate they received $232,000.
Why did the MacBride begin receiving a much a larger grant?
I don’t know for sure. There does not seem to be any public explanation.
If you know the justification that Yukon Government gave, I would love to hear it. Please comment or message me!
However, I have an idea. I think it’s because the MacBride occasionally feeds MLAs yummy sandwiches. Or, more broadly, the MacBride seems to have fostered relationships whereby they are given more visibility in the legislature. Perhaps that visibility extends to the bureaucracy as well?
What do you think? Does the explanation make sense to you or is there another one that is a better fit?