OLDS – Donna Erdman, the chair of the Olds Historical Society, says the Mountain View Museum and Archives is just not the right place for plans for the Avro Arrow, one of the most historically important and controversial military plans ever designed and built in Canada.
Earlier, Olds residents Bob and Connie Nelson came across those plans while cleaning out their basement. Bob offered to provide them to the museum but was told the museum was not interested in them.
At the time of the delta-wing jet interceptor aircraft’s cancellation in 1959, the Arrow was considered to be one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. It’s cancellation remains controversial to this day.
Erdman says there are sound reasons why the plans are not appropriate for the museum.
She says there are several criteria when decisions are made on what to accept.
First, an item offered must have a connection with Olds or the district. It must have been used by — or be important to — an individual, family, business or group in the community.
It should also have a documented history that identifies its significance. This could include things like pictures, letters or receipts of purchase, for example.
“It has to have background to it. And Mr. Nelson in this article that you printed, said that he doesn’t remember getting the plans or where they came from. So that’s the first criteria that is missing — that we don’t know where it came from or what the purpose of it was,” Erdman says.
“The Avro airplane had nothing to do with the community of Olds,” she adds.
Also, protocol calls for items that are brought to the museum to be given to its accessions committee. It decides which donated items become part of the museum collection.
The committee currently has five members: one museum staff member, one community volunteer and three board members.
“If he had brought this in, then the thing would have been: what do you have? What is the background you have? And then, would you like us to take a look at it through the accessions committee? And then the accessions committee would decide whether this is appropriate or not. So that part was missed,” Erdman says.
“We have gone out of our way to make sure that we are following all the policies and procedures that are set out by the Alberta Museums Association.”
She also wonders if the plans are indeed originals. She suspects they’re a copy. That could not be confirmed by press time.
“That’s the question; how authentic is that piece of paper? It’s interesting. But how authentic is it?”
Erdman says there are currently four museums in Mountain View County alone and the Mountain View Museum and Archives doesn’t have a whole lot of space, so it needs to be selective on what it will accept.
“We’re looking for things that have an attachment to Olds and district,” she says.
“For example: you have your aunt Ethel’s teapot and Aunt Ethel came from New Brunswick. If you can tell us a story about why Aunt Ethel’s teapot is important to you, as a citizen of Olds, then that would make it interesting.
“If it’s just Aunt Ethel’s teapot from New Brunswick, maybe it’s not that important. And part of that is because of the limited space we have. We can’t say ‘yes’ to every single thing that people offer. So we have to be more selective of what we’re doing,” she adds.
“There are lots of museums around. There probably is a museum somewhere of teapots, just as an example. There certainly are ones of airplanes and cars.”
“It shouldn’t be belonging to us. It should go to an aerospace museum. There is one in Calgary and there certainly is (one in) Ottawa.”
Erdman says when an item is accepted, it becomes the responsibility of the museum. She says items that are not accepted are returned to the person who donated it, if possible.
She notes a copy of the accessions policy is available at the museum.
Nelson understands the museum’s policy and can see why it is what it is.
He also agrees the plans he has may very well be a copy.