Mineral Museum curator leaves no rock unturned 0
Wendy Melanson is doing what she can to help the Bancroft Mineral Museum open its doors. BARBARA SHAW BANCROFT THIS WEEK
Wendy Melanson stands under a tent in the pouring rain. She's watching an auctioneer raise a few more dollars for the Bancroft Railway Station project. There was a hope that the building would be finished by now but it's not.
They are still short of the dollars needed to complete their project.
And because the building is not finished, the much anticipated mineral museum is also still on hold.
As the curator, and member of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club, Melanson's been busy putting the museum collection together and also chasing the dollars that will provide for new display cases and some interesting exhibits.
The Mineral Museum is not a new venture. It occupied the train station from 1985 to 2007 but when the building was deemed unsafe, everything was packed-up and the project sat for a few years.
In 2010 a small committee was formed to try to restore the train station building and to make it a destination for tourism and learning. The BGMC were at the table and they were eager to help get the museum back up and running.
"When the last of the uranium mines closed, in the early 1980s, the Town of Bancroft and surrounding district were left in severe financial straits," Melanson explains. "Realizing that increased tourism was one way to improve the economy, the BGMC, with the help of the Chamber of Commerce, decided to try to build a local mining museum. Many collectors, lured by a plethora of available collecting sites, were already coming to Bancroft to collect the varied minerals of the region and to study its geology."
So with the mines closed and an increase in the numbers of recreational geologists, the museum was launched and according to Melanson, it was successful.
The Chamber opened the doors each day and the BGMC was responsible for the collection and learning opportunities.
This is still the model the museum and the Chamber will follow.
In the tent with Melanson is a small, somewhat mobile display of some of the local mineral assets. It gives you an idea of what will be in the new museum.
"The calcites are special," Melanson says, "and the feldspar."
For those who don't know the pleasure of rock hounding, it can be pure pleasure as large, rare or unique minerals are pulled from the earth with the help of a hand-held hammer and some good luck.
Melanson says the museum will also focus on our local mining history so she's interested in collecting more pieces of memorabilia for the museum.
"If you have something you're willing to part with- photos or lamps or any kind of memorabilia- you can donate the item," Melanson says. "And if you don't want to do the donation you can do a long-term loan to the museum. Either way, we want to talk to them."
Melanson says the museum is looking for mineral specimens from a 100 mile radius of Bancroft as well as the mining memorabilia.
"When we're open we will have a museum that the mineral enthusiasts and the collectors will enjoy," she says.
And the push is on to get the building finished and the museum open.
Melanson says the museum attracted 7,000 visitors each year when it was open before. That's good news for local restaurants and downtown businesses.
Melanson says the museum is also good news for local residents who are happy to see a part of their community restored.
"The public didn't want it torn down," Melanson explains. "There are hardly any old buildings left in Bancroft and this was the one they wanted saved."
And as with all old buildings, there have been hurdles and surprises as the restoration has moved forward. Money is still needed so the fundraising efforts continue.
Melanson has been busy doing just this with a plant sale that raised $900.
Every little bit helps.
And that's why the auctioneer is selling-off jumble sale items in the pouring rain.
This small group of Bancroft residents is leaving no rock unturned when it comes to finding the remaining dollars for their station.
"Many community members have come forward to help this project by sitting on planning committees, helping with fundraisers, by donating time to the construction project and by donating money," Melanson says. "We sincerely appreciate them all."