4 August 2017

New Brunswick Museum CEO announces departure — with word of caution to successor

Jane Fullerton to leave museum in Saint John after 16 years as CEO, some spent fighting for expansion

By Ben Silcox, CBC News

Jane Fullerton is stepping down as CEO of the New Brunswick Museum at the end of August, after 16 years in the role.

Her departure coincides with the museum's struggle to either find a new place for its collections and resource centre or make costly expansions to its Douglas Avenue building.

She said the incoming CEO will inherit a great staff but will need to push for a bright future for the museum, including a response to structural problems at the 83-year-old building.
 
"The museum has reached a strong level," Fullerton said. "I would hope the next person can grow it more than it has to date."   

Facility issues

The New Brunswick Museum has been seeking a new home since 2012, when an engineer's report said the roof had only five years of life yet.

"The facility issues do need to be addressed," Fullerton said.

"The building that we work in, the tools that we need to do the jobs that we do, do not work properly. That limits those other opportunities, and that limits what our contributions can be to our province and beyond."

Fullerton said two years ago the costs of repairing the roof and other flaws in the building were estimated at $45 million to $50 million.

Beyond the problem roof, she said, their building needs to be better outfitted to preserve the historically significant materials housed in it.

"The costs are high to make it be what it needs to be, to be a collections and research facility," she said. "It's too small and it doesn't have the air handling and environmental controls for the lab and to preserve the collections."

In 2014 the provincial government issued a call for proposals for a new museum building, but that project was stalled.

The museum board decided in 2015 to look at expanding the museum into the adjacent Riverview Memorial Park to get more storage space.

After backlash from the community over the park's historical significance, the project was scrapped.

Jeff Hull, speaking for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in an email the province is working with other levels of government to secure full funding for the museum's needs.

"In the meantime, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is overseeing repairs this year on the existing facility, with the aim of addressing some of the current health and safety issues," he wrote. "Work on those repairs will start in September and will include ventilation, as well as electrical and building envelope repairs."

He has not replied to a question about the amount of money being spent on the repairs.

An opportunity for museum

Fullerton hopes the next CEO can help the museum find a solution to the building woes.

"I think this is a great opportunity for the province and the museum going forward to look at what is required in the next decade or so."

She is not retiring but would not go into detail about her next step.

"I see this as an opportunity to continue moving myself into new opportunities."

An open competition has been posted for CEO position on the provincial government's website.