Former MPP didn't like what the Brant Museum had planned several years ago.

opinionandcommentBy Eric Cunningham

July 10th, 2017



A number of years ago, the late Eric Cunningham, a former member of the provincial legislature for nine years, made some comments on the “project details” of a plan to improve the Joseph Brant Museum and the “expansion” to a “Community Heritage Centre.”

In 2008 when the comments were made the museum was looking for $8 million to totally rebuild the museum and expand its size by more than 300%. Today that cost has risen to $10 million

Eric Cunningham

The late Eric Cunningham.

Cunningham was pretty blunt: “Frankly, until this was drawn to my attention, I knew about as much about the plan, as I did about the Museum itself. This Museum is owned and operated by Burlington taxpayers. It has been open to the public since 1942. It houses artifacts “owned and used” by the late Joseph Brant, as well as the Eileen Collard Collection of Historic Costumes and Textiles.

“The operating funds are largely derived from Museums of Burlington (read taxpayers) which supports the Ireland House on Guelph Line. Currently, taxpayers are paying $552,000. per year to support these two facilities.

“I know little about Ireland House except that it is a nice building. What I know about the Joseph Brant Museum is that people in the “witness protection program” could stay there without fear of being caught….because hardly anyone goes there.

“I was horrified to learn that my local Ward One member of Council favours a scheme to expand the Joseph Brant Museum by 14, 000 square feet at a cost of almost $8 million. Almost $2 million capital costs would come from Burlington. With the exception of an additional $2 million from donors, the balance would come from Ottawa and Queen’s Park (read taxpayers). Eight people currently work at the Joseph Brant Museum, and there is a recommendation to Council that we should add one more at a price tag of $35,000.

“After living in Burlington on and off since 1954, I paid my $4. and made a visit to the museum for the first time. Two very nice young women greeted me. I saw a photo exhibit by the late Frank Wright which frankly could be displayed anywhere. There was some form of a replica canoe in the front room. Anyone wanting to see anything regarding Chief Brant had to go upstairs.

“What was there was pretty slim. Old photos of the Town back when. The “costume” section was not memorable.

Burlington Museums will be doing a themed newspaper on the War of 1812 for distribution in the community. Brant's son John will play a prominent part in the festivities this year.

The Joseph Brant Museum.

“I signed the guest book. Likely less than five hundred guests signed the book since 2007. Mausoleums get more traffic than this place.

“On a per capita basis, the Joseph Brant Museum gets less traffic than the RBG, our Cultural Centre across the street, and most church basements.

“It matters little to me that the Joseph Brant Museum expansion plan (tripling the size?) may be paid for by other levels of government. Those are taxes that we all pay. Money advanced for this ill-advised nonsense will need to be borrowed as both senior levels of government are running deficits.

“By all means buy some new paint for the Joseph Brant Museum and keep pushing the school tours. But no more tax money for this foolishness.”

Eric Cunningham died at the age of 65 on January 1, 2015

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5 comments to Former MPP didn’t like what the Brant Museum had planned several years ago.

  • I'm alright now

    This will be the third time this replica house will have been moved in nearly 30 years.
    Steamrolling and building from scratch this replica would be more economical, but of course we would lose the authenticity of the original replica in the process.
    Perhaps incorporating a mausoleum, necropolis might increase tourist numbers and utility.
    Add a Skywalk to the AGB and Spencer’s Landing with maybe a passport ticket (Visit all three in one busy day and get a soda 1/2 price in the basement of Spencer’s landing.)
    If we make the cultural vistas more inviting, they will come, yes indeed.

  • Penny

    Absolutely agree with Mr. Cunningham. I was pleased when a few years ago the museum did NOT get the grant it had applied for. Here we are again…..spending taxpayer dollars for a museum that no one visits. To find out that it costs over 500,000.00 a year to maintain it is absolutely ridiculous.

    I hope Council has what it takes to stop this nonsense. Take the money and put it where it might do some good – like the communities that could use this for better housing, medical care and schooling.

  • Steve

    I didn’t realize we were spending so much on this old house. 1/2 million each year to operate? Where does the money go? I remember going there as a child 40 years ago. It doesn’t sound like it has changed much since.

  • As a relative newcomer to this city,and as someone who has only set foot inside the front door of the Museum to deliver promotional flyers for a concert, I am not in a position to comment with great authority. However, it strikes me that having the homestead of one of our country’s most notable indigenous persons in our community is definitely cause for celebration. If managed in a creative and sensitive manner, the redevelopment of the Brant site can become a major touristic and educational destination. I, for one, look forward to hearing more about this exciting development.

  • Lynn

    Hear hear Mr. Cunningham. This exact statement could be reiterated today, only with higher cost numbers. No way should council be spending our money on this.