Small museums seek support

27/02/2008 - 22:00

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The state government addressed a long-running issue early this month when it announced plans to spend $500 million developing a new museum at the East Perth power station site.

Small museums seek support

The state government addressed a long-running issue early this month when it announced plans to spend $500 million developing a new museum at the East Perth power station site.

 

But the decision has provided little comfort for smaller museums that are still battling to make ends meet, among them the railway museum in Bassendean, the Museum of Childhood, now in storage, and the Royal Air Force Association of Western Australia (RAAFA WA) Aviation Heritage Museum in Bullcreek.

 

RAAFA chief executive officer Gerry Warner described the museum as a “unique collection which tells an aviation story in this state, which, with its huge area, is an important part of military and civilian history in WA”.

 

Because the museum receives funding through small specific-purpose grants and its own operations, which consist of the museum and the RAAFA WA retirement village, there “isn’t much money spun”, according to Mr Warner.

 

“The hardest part of being a not-for-profit organisation is finding a balance between being not-for-profit and not-for-loss,” he said.

 

“As a not-for-profit organisation you are not operating for huge profits, but you can’t run if you don’t make any money,” he said.

 

Although the museum’s artefacts are kept in good condition, the building itself is in need of refurbishment, according to Mr Warner.

 

Mr Warner said the RAAFA recently spent $150,000 on critical safety maintenance in the museum.

 

The association has also been assessing proposals for building new, larger premises, at a likely cost of more than $1 million.

 

“This museum is so unique that it would be a tragedy if the collection wasn’t shown in it’s best light; in order to give credit to the planes, they must be housed properly,” Mr Warner said.

 

The museum, located at Bull Creek, includes aircraft and heritage memorabilia, such as books and photographs.

 

It opened in the late 1950s, and hosts about 7,500 visitors annually.

 

The museum is run by volunteers for whom aviation is a hobby, and who therefore have an interest in the preservation, education and conservation of the state’s aviation history.

 

Mr Warner said it was difficult to compete with paying agencies for staff, which presented another funding issue.

 

“[If I were to speak with one of the museum’s original founders, they would probably say that they were] pleased with the evolution and sophistication of the collection and they would applaud the youth involvement and the honour of reflecting those who served, however, they would probably be concerned with the uncertainties of the state of the museum and what will happen in the long term,” Mr Warner said.

 

The most rewarding feedback, he said, came when young people found direction through the museum, and said “I want to be a pilot”, at the end of a tour.

 

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