Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. / Courtesy of the RDFFG

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors will decide whether to grant a $500,000 loan to the Fraser-Fort George Museum Society in Prince George during their April 18th meeting. If the proposed agreement is approved, the Society will pay back the loan over the course of five years at an interest rate of four per cent.

The Society requested assistance from the District to cover debt that is detrimental to the museum’s operation, according to the proposed agreement.

Tracy Calogheros, CEO of the Fraser-Fort George Museum, told The Goat the debt was accrued during the pandemic. The museum underwent renovations to improve air circulation, replace carpeting, and replace structures in the children’s gallery with easier-to-clean alternatives to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she said.

Among other things, the museum also installed a repatriation gallery showcasing items from neighbouring First Nations, and began making space for the development of a zoo within the museum, Calogheros said. While these changes were a long time coming – she said the museum had not been updated since 2001 – they took longer than expected.

“It was intended to open in May of 2023, but we weren’t able to get opened until the end of October in 2023,” Calogheros said. “What that did was create a revenue challenge because we had no earnings during our high season. So we have been carrying forward a fairly substantial deficit just around that $500,000 mark.”

Calogheros said if the loan is not approved, the results will be catastrophic for the museum, which serves a vital role in the Fraser-Fort George community. The museum is the only Class A facility in B.C.’s central interior, she said – meaning the museum is properly climate-controlled and can house delicate artifacts.

“The work that we do as an archeological repository is vital,” she said. “We’re also doing a lot of work around repatriation and rematriation of Indigenous belongings […] we are helping Indigenous communities to retrieve their personal belongings from other museums.”

However, Calogheros said the Regional District has historically been very supportive of the museum’s work. She believes the District’s loan has a better interest rate than what would be offered at a bank.

“I think we’re very lucky to have […] a regional district that recognizes the value that art and culture bring to their communities and a sense of place,” Calogheros said. “That’s something many of my colleagues across the country are very jealous of. That support from the Regional District is what has allowed us to do the cutting-edge work that we have been doing.”