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Doukhobor Discovery Centre seeks 25% funding increase

The Doukhobor Discovery Centre says it needs more cash from the City of Castlegar to support its operations.

Museum director Ryan Dutchak requested a 25 per cent increase to their annual funding of $46,575 during a presentation to city council this month.

He cited rising costs due to increases in the minimum wage and utility rates and said the extra money would be used to support two main office positions with year-round employment and maintain core services such as gift shop hours, history talks, and digitization projects.

He also said it would also allow them to plan yearly events, promote fundraising, seek grants, and offer more competitive wages. He noted their seasonal caretaker position sees high turnover.

Dutchak said they had several major expenses in 2023, including replacing three hot water tanks. The failure of one damaged the public washroom. Their security system was improved thanks to a tech grant from the Columbia Basin Trust and have started looking at replacing windows, primarily in their replicated communal houses. They also updated their signage, printed more museum guide maps, and more recently have been working on resolving issues with their septic tank.

Dutchak said they had 1,882 paid admissions through early November following a slower start to the season in the spring. That does not include the 250 to 300 people who came to a very popular borsch cook-off, an event they hope to repeat next year.

Although the museum’s restaurant didn’t operate this year, volunteers offered catered luncheons to tour groups to offer a “more complete cultural experience” and also served funeral luncheons.

While visitors were down by over 300 compared to last year, the museum had more media attention, including a story in the New York Times.

Dutchak says they continue to work on digitizing photographs and thousands of videos showcasing Doukhobor choral singing performances that will eventually be made available online.

However, they have not spent $25,000 committed by the city in 2022 to another project known as the Doukhobor archives and research centre. It called for the unfinished basements of the museum’s two communal homes to be turned into a dedicated archives and storage space.

Dutchak said they feel it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to spend any planning money without knowing the full renovation costs.

“Further discussions about funding are still taking place, but we have not been able to move past these conversations this season,” he said.

Potential funders have also suggested the archives might be better off in the neighbouring Kootenay Gallery building once a new art gallery is built downtown.

City council will consider the museum’s funding request as part of its budget deliberations.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of funding the museum presently gets from the city. It is $46,575 per year, paid in quarterly instalments, not $46,575 per quarter.)

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