A multimillion-dollar collection of exotic international antiques, acquired by the Brant Museum and Archives in 1993, is this week being packed and shipped to Toronto to be readied for sale by Waddington's auction house.
Removal of the 2,000-piece Scheak collection will free up space at the museum for exhibits with local relevance, said Brant Historical Society executive director Joan Kanigan.
"It's very exciting for us," she said, adding that she looks forward to having more room to display and celebrate the history of Brantford and Brant County.
"We were constrained by a collection that has nothing to do with us," Kanigan said.
None of the items in the Scheak collection had any local connection.
The collection -an eclectic treasure trove of early English and European furniture, paintings, glassware, near Eastern religious icons, textiles, pewter, armour and more -was bequeathed to the society by the late Toronto millionaire Harrison Scheak in 1993.
Estimates of its value have ranged as high as $4 million, but it had been appraised at $2.2 million for insurance purposes.
Waddington's will pack the collection and transport it to Toronto, where experts will assess, photograph and research the pieces, and prepare a marketing plan for auctioning the items. Waddington's -a premier Canadian auction house in business since 1850 --is the same company that appraised the collection when it first came to Brantford, Kanigan said.
"They are very familiar with the collection."
For 16 years, the Scheak collection had been a blessing and a bane to the historical society.
The process to de-accession the collection began in 2009. At that time, Kanigan said that the museum did not have the space or funds to continue to maintain the collection.
Several notices were sent out through a Canada-wide museum network, advertising the availability of the collection's inventory. No expressions of interest were received.
Kanigan said she was not entirely surprised by the lack of interest. Most museums only add to their collections' particular area of focus and many are already running out of space, she said.
"It's not just money," said Kanigan, adding that museums need physical space and resources to properly care for their items.
Scheak was a charmingly eccentric retired engineer who made a fortune playing the stock market and spent 40 years amassing antiques.
He had no descendants and, when he was in his late 80s, hit upon the Brantford museum as a possible home for his collection, which he hoped to keep intact. Many discussions and visits with museum and Brant County officials resulted in a deal that became public in 1993.
Scheak pledged that a $1.1- million trust fund would be available upon his death to maintain the collection.
The fund remained accessible to Scheak during his lifetime, and he lived another 11 years. By the time Scheak died in 2004, at the age of 99, the promised $1.1 million had shrivelled to about $230,000.
Processing and preparing the Scheak collection for auction could take a year or more, Kanigan said.
The historical society will receive the proceeds of any auctions, less costs.
But there is still a catch. Kanigan said auction proceeds may be used only to care for or improve the museum's current collection or to acquire new pieces. Auction funds may not be used for the day-to-day operation of the museum.
How much does Kanigan think the auctioning of the Scheak collection will bring in?
"We haven't the slightest clue," she said.