This past Thursday evening the City of Selkirk held its first fundraiser for the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund. It was a “wine and cheese” event at the Gwen Fox Art Gallery on the corner of Main Street and Manitoba Avenue. Between the exhibits of work by talented local artists, the live harp music and the historical displays hosted by both the Marine Museum of Manitoba and the Selkirk Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, the evening presented some of the best that Selkirk has to offer. On top of that, the guests were treated to some tales from local historian and story teller Rob Sarginson.
Capturing our Shared Heritage and Cultural Infrastructure
As I said, the evening was a fundraiser for the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund, or SHEF for short. The SHEF was established by the City of Selkirk in 2012. It was the key proposal arising from the “Capturing our Shared Heritage” white paper I prepared and submitted to Council. The purpose for this paper was to bring the lack of a municipal museum to the consciousness of the community and to underscore the importance that having this cultural infrastructure in our community.
We all know the importance of hard municipal infrastructure (roads, water and sewer lines, etc). Without these assets a community cannot function. But what is less widely known is the importance of so-called “soft” infrastructure, in this case cultural infrastructure. Retaining and documenting historical assets isn’t about preserving the past. It is about being able to retell our story into the future. Being able to pass these stories on to new residents and the next generation of Selkirkians ensures that these people feel a sense of place, that they belong. Having a deeper understanding of how and why a community is the way it is – builds a sense of pride and allows people to feel like they are on the “inside”, that they are part of the family.
The Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund
Capturing our Shared Heritage was written as a first step towards a long-term investment into our cultural capital. It was presented and council immediately adopted the paper and implemented its first phase – the establishment of the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund and an annual contribution of $50,000 by the City of Selkirk. In the photo at the top of this page you see Deputy Mayor Ken Beerman presenting this year’s City contribution. Donations to the SHEF are held in perpetuity by the Selkirk & District Community Foundation and the income generated by the fund will be used to support the operations of a future municipal museum. Until that museum is established, the income will be used to support the operations of the Marine Museum.
The city has made its annual contribution to the SHEF since its establishment and so have I. You see, the fund isn’t intended to be limited to donations from city government. In fact, the intention was to create a focal point for the community to direct their support for heritage. Without a museum not only do we not have a place to capture and display our heritage, we also do not have a central place around which people who value heritage and local culture can rally. The white paper envisioned donations coming from citizens, businesses and organizations as well. I am proud to have been the first private donor to the fund with a $500 contribution in memory of my Amma (grandma in Icelandic), Lil Nicol. It’s a memorial donation I have made every year since.
Cultural Roots Build a Stronger Community
Amma lived in Selkirk most of her life and embodied the hardworking nature of the local citizens. In large part, my “sense of place” here in Selkirk comes through her. Through the stories she and my dad (Larry Nicol) have told me. I, as they say, have deep roots here. Cultural roots, like plant roots, are important. They help to bind the soil of a community together against the eroding forces of the winds of time and flooding social and economic change. The more deep roots we can nurture into our community the stronger and more resilient it will be. That is the purpose of cultural infrastructure and that is what the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund was created to build.
The 2015 SHEF Wine and Cheese was a big success thanks to Vanessa Figus, Doreen Oliver and a team of amazing volunteers. I am proud to have been a small part of the evening and I’m proud to have been part of a visionary council that saw fit to create the fund. I’m excited to see the vision we had for the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund coming into reality. It is a bold step towards a stronger, more vibrant Selkirk.