Developing Our Culture

Following is a collection of articles outlining the museum's involvement in local culture projects - most often in partnership with the Grey Highlands Public Library. See more about our roundtables at visitgreyhighlands.ca.

Trillium Foundation funds improve access to local culture

The cultural mosaic in Grey Highlands received a boost recently when municipal council passed a bylaw to accept funding for a specific project which increases community access to and engagement in local arts and heritage activities and events.

Council chambers was full to capacity, with some supporters spilling out into the hall, as the successful Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) application was outlined to council and some folks who had previously presented publicly in opposition to the funding opportunity.

OTF funding supports enhanced use of digital and social media as well as the creation of a community cultural cable channel in Grey Highlands. This builds on the success of the Cultural Development Fund initiative led by the public library, in partnership with the South Grey Museum.

“It is exciting to provide and improve access to information and resources in new and innovative ways that reflect user trends and the needs of the community,” said Grey Highlands Public Library CEO and Chief Librarian Wilda Allen during an unscheduled delegation to council prior to the board presentation. “The channel is merely a piece of a much larger priority that we are addressing in the project which is to make strategic use of emerging and new media and social media (such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter).”

The project will offer training to local volunteers and community groups on how to shoot, edit and submit content to a cultural channel similar to the current community channel on Markdale Cable. Funding will also cover the cost of equipment, computers, and editing software for public use. Created content will be developed, received and uploaded to the channel by library and museum staff as part of existing social and digital media management. Everyone in the community will be welcome to submit content.

“I would like to make very clear that we are not starting a TV station,” said Allen in clarifying misleading reports this would be a costly broadcast channel. “The one -time start-up expenses for the cultural channel is less than $6,500.”
Allen further noted there was no new municipal money as part of this project, as it is funded by grants and existing operating funds through the library system in partnership with the South Grey Museum. Friends of the Museum group chairperson Jane Gibson spoke to council briefly, confirming the group’s enthusiasm about the initiative. The Friends groups of all three municipal libraries and the museum provided cash to the project.

“There seems to be a general misunderstanding of the roles and responsibilities of libraries and museums,” said Allen. “Libraries and museums have moved beyond bricks and mortar, books and artifacts.”
Library board chair Jim Harrold and museum board chair Colleen Boer offered a scheduled presentation to council, complete with comprehensive logic models offering the history of the project and the rationale for it. A Power Point presentation provided an overview of the entire project, which includes a look at local library and museum governance and how they may provide leadership for culture in the future.

This project is “aimed to make our cultural landscape in Grey Highlands more welcoming, better coordinated and most importantly, more accessible to citizens and visitors,” said Harrold, who added he hopes more people will get involved in the process through the ongoing Cultural Roundtable. 

“We encourage all members of Council and the public to participate in our process,” he suggested, offering the project is open to all and public documentation is available by contacting the library. “Particularly we encourage those who seek more answers to join in. Help shape our community driven, bottom up approach to cultural development.”
Museum board chair Boer noted this project will enhance the ability of the community to tell and share its stories. She offered examples of early teddy bear promoter Seymour Eaton, writer of the famous Roosevelt Bears books in the early 1900s, who was born in Epping and is featured in a museum exhibit. She gave a brief history of William Coutts, grandson of Feversham founder Edward Horton, who partnered with Hallmark in the early days of greeting cards. His story was recently featured in a CBC Radio story which was researched with the assistance of the museum.

“I’d like to invite council and all our community to come out to the museum,” she said. ““The museum and library are the heart and mind of our community. We’d love to tell you some of our stories.”

The community will have the opportunity to tell its own stories through this inclusive channel. Plans are in the works for training sessions over the two-year length of the project. The libraries will host computers with editing software so people of all ages will be able to get in on the action. The channel will be sustained through a low annual license fee of less than $400, part of overall library operations.

The bylaw to support the project and sign the approved grant documents was carried unanimously by council. Mayor Paul McQueen suggested the municipality has always supported the library and museum and he looks forward to Heritage Grey Highlands involvement in this exciting new endeavor.

Cultural priorities and online promotions

There are so many cultural opportunities and options for action plans in the community, the new Grey Highlands Cultural Roundtable is seeking input into priority setting.

Over 20 local residents, including several new municipal council members, attended a second meeting of the roundtable at the Flesherton library to discuss some of the ideas participants put forth at the outreach group’s launch in October. 

A survey was developed to look at a variety of categories from focus group topics and training needs to community development, volunteer recognition and event and project evaluation. The survey will be emailed to local people interested in the project and over 100 local community groups. It will also be made available online.

The roundtable is part of an ongoing Cultural Development Fund project led by the public libraries in partnership with the South Grey Museum. The project is sponsored by the province and is meant to engage communities to develop stronger boards and advisory committees; create more effective collaborations and partnerships and make strategic use of emerging new media and social media. 

Communication is key to carrying the project forward. To that end, workshops in online promotions and social media were developed by library staff and presented as part of the recent meeting. Local websites and social media tips were presented to show people how these new media help spread the word about local cultural events, provide information about community attractions and offer opportunities to connect with neighbours and people around the world.

In addition to the main municipal website, the workshop also featured the library and museum sites as well as a community-wide cultural asset website at visitgreyhighlands.ca, which needs constant updating and additional content from the community. The library and museum also have social media pages to promote their programs and community events. Posting, sharing and linking helps build community awareness online. 

The workshops were presented by the library’s Virtual Branch Librarian and Computer Access Program (CAP) Coordinator. The workshop may be repeated as needed for individuals visiting the library and for community groups on request. It is interactive, so people may learn immediately how to post content to online sites and social media.

Over 100 local community groups were invited to the meeting and will be offered individual visits and an opportunity to fill out the survey to provide their view on local cultural priorities. 

Of course, there are also many privately owned and operated websites; events lists and media outlets. These will be shared with participants at future communications workshops and made available as resources to interested individuals and groups soon. 

Access the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Z8HH5JD

First Roundtable hears many ideas

Thanks to over 30 local residents, the launch of the Grey Highlands Cultural Roundtable held on October 25th at the Flesherton Kinplex was a success.

Formed as part of a Cultural Development Fund project coordinated by the libraries and museum and funded by the province, the volunteer collective of people with interest in our community will seek to develop an action plan to carry forward the municipal Cultural Plan.

The purpose of the first meeting was to update the community on the current project; listen to ideas on developing a cultural network, including how best to promote culture; to foster collaboration and coordination among cultural groups and event organizers and to determine how this cultural roundtable should unfold in the future.

A few strong voices emerged, seeking to more closely define culture and beef up local communications opportunities with targeted audiences in mind. Others wanted to have smaller groups to focus on themes like the potential for a local arts council to help find funding for creative individuals and groups or a group to develop ways to enhance inclusion opportunities in our diverse community for people with disabilities and other barriers to participating in events and cultural activities. 

According to some comments from those who attended, there are “1,000 secrets out there” to promote which could draw out both residents and visitors to “work, rest, play and enjoy” in our community. If all aspects of the area work together, there could be a great collaborative effort to enhance the knowledge about and participation in the variety of local culture in Grey Highlands.

A website does exist at visitgreyhighlands.ca. It was created under a previous cultural grant, yet still needs a lot more content and promotion to get people using it to promote and seek events and activities in the area. With this in mind, community groups, individuals and businesses are invited to submit information about their events to be posted on the website. Information for the website will be collected, leading up to the next roundtable meeting.

The next meeting, scheduled for December 6th at 2 p.m. at the Flesherton Library, will focus on priority setting. For more information or to get involved contact museum@greyhighlands.ca or the library at contact@greyhighlands.ca.

Modelling local cultural governance

The Grey Highlands Public Library and the South Grey Museum have partnered to look at cultural governance processes to guarantee sustainability, determine some kind of collective community vision and allow inclusive input from a variety of local individuals, groups and organizations – what project managers call “stakeholders”.

You have a stake in this if you consider what you do, or your group’s mandate or mission to be about local or regional culture. Whether you do artistic things, provide creative outlets though a group or program, offer recreation or heritage activities or are interested in the retention, development and maintenance of our local culture – the project partners want to hear from you.

Through a current Cultural Development Fund project, the public library has hired consultants to look at governance models to more closely align the library and museum goals and strategies. This part of an overall comprehensive project, also offering community outreach through a roundtable, will offer a governance summit to discuss how things will work moving forward and a later regional cultural summit for interested individuals and groups across the county.

The project is the next step in an overall strategy to promote culture in the community. The library had a Strategic Development Fund grant in 2008 to enhance library services, develop new partnerships and offer new educational tools, including the digitized Agnes Macphail collection online. In 2010, a Cultural Strategic Investment Fund grant funded a new “virtual branch” for the library, offering a 24/7 library experience. 

The Chamber of Commerce completed a Creative Communities Prosperity Fund project for the community in 2011, which gathered information on cultural assets, developed a community profile and provided training on municipal cultural planning, with a final report loaded with resources. A follow-up grant from that project saw the Municipality of Grey Highlands obtain funding from the same source. The museum took the lead on that project, partnering with the library to conduct a community survey and public meeting with local groups to gather local insight. Cultural maps were developed for community facilities and businesses, creating an updated cultural assets list, which is now available online at visitgreyhighlands.ca. The project culminated in a municipal Cultural Plan, passed in April 2013.

Other organizations have completed research projects, such as the Highlands Community Co-op’s “Have Your Say” initiative and the municipality’s Strategic Planning process, which both sought to promote our culture. 

This project will allow the Municipality of Grey Highlands to bring a broad spectrum of culture under an overall visionary model to work collaboratively with the entire community. The library and museum already work well together, so this this will enhance the community’s ability to work closely to benefit everyone.

For information or to get involved contact the library at contact@greyhighlandspubliclibrary.com or the museum at museum@greyhighlands.ca.

Harvesting culture in Grey Highlands

The seeds of culture are sown every day. Our heritage harvests our creativity. The hard work of volunteers, dedicated individuals and organizations grows our history into our future.

You just have to attend an event, visit a local library or museum or simply walk a trail or admire an historic downtown building to get a taste of culture in Grey Highlands.

Culture is all around us, at events, in local gardens, community halls, arena sports and recreation as well as walking on sidewalks and trails or hanging on gallery walls, in natural settings and heritage architecture. From performer to painter, potter to architect, live music venue to field and stream, non-profit organization meeting to casual social gathering – we live in a place rich with a variety of opportunities. 

Thanks to a Culture Development Fund grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, the Grey Highlands Public Library and South Grey Museum are looking forward to increased organization and local recognition of the wealth of cultural assets in the municipality.

“We have so much here to celebrate and explore,” said project lead partner Wilda Allen, CEO of the Grey Highlands Public Library. “Culture is all around us. We see it every day; perhaps that is why we often overlook the great things happening in our own community.”

The library and museum have been custodians of the community’s culture through providing access to the world through library resources and programs and tending our heritage and offering assistance to visitors