The last few years have been busy for the St. Walburg and Area Museum as the building has been seeing restorations to both the exterior and interior. On top of these restorations, the museum had to undergo an unexpected asbestos removal after an art conservator found some of the toxic material behind a few of the building’s murals.
Judy Seguin, a secretary on the museum board, says all of these projects have been funded by money raised within the community, which she says is noteworthy considering the area’s small population.
“We were doing a restoration from 2011 to 2013. We restored the exterior of the museum at the cost of about $112,000 and that was pretty remarkable because in six weeks we managed to raise about $60,000 right in our community,” she said. “Then after that was done in 2013, I started a search for a painting conservator so that we could start working on the interior.”
The inside of the building features paintings and murals done by Berthold Imhoff, a famous local painter who worked in the area in the early 1900s. The museum board wanted to restore his work as it was getting in bad shape and Seguin says it took her a long time to find someone who was right for the job.
The following year, in 2014, they finally found a conservator from Edmonton who came to the museum with her assistant to do a preliminary assessment of the paintings. Seguin says they haven’t been cleaned properly in about 80 years. There were cracks and water damage and if left unfixed the paintings might be ruined for good. When the conservator was doing tests, however, she found asbestos on some of the dividers that stood between paintings and walls, adding surprise costs to the restoration project.
“So we had to find an abatement company to remove the asbestos and also we incurred $25,000 in expenses that we didn’t know we were going to have. So I put out another call at that point to the community that had helped us during the first restoration phase,” Seguin said.
Luckily, it only took about three weeks to raise the needed money to remove the asbestos and Seguin says the museum board is thankful to the community members who stepped up and helped make it all happen. Now that the asbestos has been removed they can move forward with the painting restorations and are waiting for the conservator’s report to see how much the costs will be.
When all is finally said and done Seguin says she would like to see all of the restorations to the museum fully completed by 2017 for Canada’s 150th anniversary.