The Museum of Northern B.C. has told city council the Visitor Information Centre will be open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week from the May long weekend until the end of August, with the exception of Thursdays when it will be open until at least 8 p.m. because of the cruise ships.
Last December the museum was informed council would only approve the Community Enhancement Grants for the amounts of $70,000 to run the Visitor’s Centre and $14,500 for Kwinitsa Station Museum pending council’s approval of a peak season schedule.
In 2010 the Museum took over the operation of the Visitor Information Centre and it was relocated to the museum from Atlin Terminal.
Councillors said they were hearing from the community concern about the hours of operation.
During a presentation to council by museum curator Susan Marsden and director Robin Weber, Marsden said the Visitor’s Centre is presently open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week.
While the museum agrees that increased hours are desirable for the tourist season, it’s not a case of simply having one employee stay on for two hours each day.
“Because the visitor’s centre is in the lobby of the museum, visitors access the gift shop, museum and visitor’s centre through the same doors and while it may seem logical that only one of these functions can be open at any one time, it is not the case,” Marsden told council.
Visitors are annoyed if only one function is open at any one time and so it is necessary to have all three open, she added.
Marsden said in order to keep the VC open in the evenings, at least three people will need to be working. A front desk person for museum reception and visitor’s centre counsellor, a gift shop person, and a senior staff member for crises and security.
Additional costs to keep the museum open longer, she said, will be absorbed by the museum, probably primarily from its bus tour revenue and perhaps additional admission and gift shop sales in the evening.
“Last year was our first year with the bus tour and we actually generated quite a bit of revenue that helped us pay down our deficit in the museum budget,” Marsden explained.
Weber outlined some unanticipated costs. They included a new wind-proof Visitor Information Centre banner for the outside of the building, the responsibility to cover the wages for one of two people on the B.C. Ferries satellite Visitors Centre system through Tourism B.C., the cost of a facilitator to train staff to run the VC and the printing and shipping of City map pads.
“Port Hardy pays for one of the ferry staff and Prince Rupert pays for the other,” Weber said.
When it came time for council to approve the grants to the museum, Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne and Mayor Jack Mussallem were opposed.
“I am opposed because the Museum of Northern B.C. continues to refuse any requests that the City participate on their governance board. We cannot continue to give them support without a voice from our council,” Gordon-Payne said.
Marsden told the Prince Rupert Northern View if a council member sat on the board, the $60,000 the museum presently receives from gaming would be jeopardized.
“The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch is very clear that a councillor on our board will be the end of that funding. The Museum Board wrote a comprehensive letter to the City in early 2011 with suggestions of alternative solutions. There has been no reply to that letter,” Marsden said.