STURGIS - The newest addition to be welcomed into the community is the completed newly built Agricultural Heritage Building at the Sturgis Station House Museum. The building process began on December 1, 2021 and was competed January 31, 2022 by contractors Countryside Construction. The large door is scheduled to be installed in the next few weeks.
“The building will house the museum’s many agricultural artifacts. It is the board’s plan to have many exhibits such as a blacksmith shop, a section for the UGG elevator weigh scales that were kept from the Sturgis elevators, Mr. Meroniuk's flour mill stones, a homebrew still (that need a few pieces), a working loom, an exhibit for the many agricultural tools, a Moline threshing machine and many more,” stated information provided by the museum.
After the museum’s pole shed collapsed several years ago, the board of directors realized that the museum was in need of another building to house its many agricultural artifacts. In addition to the farming implements that were stored under the pole shed, they also had a lot of artifacts in storage because there was no room to display them. The best solution was to build a brand new building to house and display the museum’s agricultural artifacts. And thus the idea of the Agricultural Heritage Building (AHB) was born.
Even in the early stages of planning, it was obvious this building would be large – 50’ x 80’ x 14’ as there were a lot of artifacts to display and exhibits to create: farming equipment (Moline threshing machine), a blacksmith shop, UGG elevator weight scales, flour mill stones, a working carpet loom for an interactive display, and bootlegging exhibit and farm tools.
In 2017, the museum began fundraising and after receiving an estimate of $131,000, the planning stages for the building began to take place.
“Even though the museum is responsible for paying all of its operational expenses (wages, power, telephone, all upgrades and repairs, and collection costs), we were able to set aside $20,000 in the first two years,” stated Myrtle Boychuk, representative for the museum.
“Then in 2020, COVID hit. All events were cancelled and basically all fundraising was put on hold. With no income coming in and bills still needing to be paid, the museum dipped into the “rainy-day fund” for operational expenses. We also received financial support from Canada Summer Jobs, SaskCulture/Sask Lotteries, and the local Recreation Board and were able to provide employment for our curator and summer students, despite being closed to the public. Fundraising continued with projects that could be done without any gatherings such as: making cabbage rolls, selling Christmas baking trays, and take-out Mother’s Day brunch and Father’s Day supper. At the end of 2020 we set aside a paltry $4,000 towards the Agricultural Heritage Building.”
The fundraising committee decided to distribute sponsorship letters to various local organizations, individuals, private businesses, and corporations. Many responded positively and the AHB fund grew. The museum’s fundraising committee and the board agreed on which events could be held in 2020-2021, and all profits were put towards the project.
In the last half of 2020, attention was focused toward applying for grants in addition to the museum’s own fundraising efforts. The museum’s grant writer, Angèle Poirier, diligently searched for grants which might be applicable to the Agricultural Heritage Building. Grants come in all shapes and sizes: some must be for specific programming, while others are open to all museums, regardless of their programming. Many grants are highly competitive, and the majority of applications are unsuccessful.
In late 2020 the museum received $5,000 from New Horizons for Seniors to encourage volunteerism and senior involvement in the community.
Meanwhile, in fall 2020, an application was made to the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, CCSF) for over $60,000. The representative came back with questions many times over the winter and the museum had to justify every detail of the application, right down to the reason why the AHB windows would not be made of glass. (As a note, polycarbonate is 200 times stronger than glass; it's amazing the things you learn when planning a new building.) At long last, word came in spring 2021 that the application was successful – to the tune of $41,900.
“Despite our celebrating, we were not yet in the clear. With a quote of over $100,000 and the fund only at $85,000, we still had tens of thousands to go, and not much time. If we did not spend the CCSF money by April 2022, we would have to give it all back,” said Boychuk.
The board of directors then decided to contact town council and request financial assistance. By this point (summer 2021), two major grant decisions had yet to arrive. Amid the uncertainty, it was a huge relief that town council recognized the importance of such a project, and agreed to back it financially if needed. The museum then turned toward its fall 2021 fundraisers, the biggest ones of the year: the volunteer appreciation supper, garage/ hamburger sale, and the auction kitchen.
Although the original goal was $131,000, this quote was outdated, and it was suggested that a new estimate be requested from local contractors. A new quote from Norquay Co-op for $84,855.07 was given. At the museum’s August 2021 monthly meeting, this estimate was accepted, with construction beginning in the new year – long before the CCSF grant’s deadline.
The museum’s board of directors are extremely thankful for all the volunteers and individuals who continually support the museum by donating time and money, attending fundraisers, and purchasing memberships which help to keep costs down.
“Without this revenue, we would was find it difficult to achieve our many goals. Even once it's built, there will still be a lot of work in the Agricultural Heritage Building: building a storage room with a concrete floor, partial walls dividing exhibit spaces, and platforms to keep artifacts off the ground. But for now, the museum’s board can sit back, relax, and celebrate our accomplishment,” concluded Boychuk.