By Claire King
The little Denman Island Museum was first envisioned by Doris Kirk in 1979. Shortly after, in the early 1980’s, it was incorporated into the new Seniors Centre building, housed in a meeting room. By 1995, with the aid of grants and many volunteer hands, the museum, by then filled with a multitude of interesting items from Denman’s past, finally acquired its own space.
That of course was over 20 years ago, and like all buildings, especially ones that house many old things, the dusty rooms of the museum became in sore need of a major facelift.
As a result of this obvious need, the Board of the Denman Seniors and Museum Society, launched a project to revitalize and refurbish the museum. This has involved not only a major renovation of the physical space: cleaning out, repainting, and culling of items on display, but also a great deal of organizational effort: making inventories, updating the archives and ensuring that the records we have actually match the materials and displays currently in the museum. If you happened to visit the museum last summer you would have already noticed the vast improvement: a lighter and brighter space; newly organized display cabinets, and an overall more aesthetic arrangement of exhibits.
There have been decisions to make and alternatives to ponder in the planning process. For example, at first it was thought we should get rid of some of the old wildlife exhibits for sanitary reasons –but then, guided by the revised mission statement of the museum, which states the aim of the museum is: “to acquire, preserve and exhibit material relevant to the Natural, as well as Human, history of the island”, it was decided instead to thoroughly cleanse such items by putting then in the deep freeze –sometimes twice, to “de bug “them. So now, as you wander the museum, you will notice that the Snowy Owl is snowy once more, and gazes down at you proudly from atop a cabinet, restored to its former glory.
Much work has been done already, but much more remains. Some projects will only require a continuation of volunteer work and planning, others will be dependent on more funding, either from grants or from community donations. “The Friends of the Museum” continue to plan new projects to enliven the museum and to add to its holdings. Special exhibitions to highlight the cultural history of our island, and the creation of new videos to supplement our existing oral history material, are being considered at present. The development of educational tours for both school children and adults is also on our agenda. To date, there have already been some enthusiastic tourists visiting our museum. In early March for example, a tour of the museum was arranged for a keenly interested group of Chinese Canadians. This group was led by Dr. Joseph Lin, head of a “Green Club” in Vancouver that organizes Eco/heritage tours; it was combined with a visit to Denman to see the herring run.
If you are wondering what exactly is displayed in the museum currently, the best way to find out is to come down this summer when the museum re opens, and take a look for yourself. Suffice it to say that there are some fascinating items dating back from the time of Denman Island’s First Nations summer dwellers: artifacts gleaned mostly from the shores of Denman. There are also many interesting objects and pictures from the pioneer and early settler eras which help to demonstrate their way of life
For July, a special exhibition of the history of Pottery on Denman is being planned. To find out how you might be able to help with information about that particular exhibit, please contact: DD. Fuchs, Linda Schmidt, Ann Paisley or Pat Kelly.
For all other information regarding the Museum, you may contact: Jackie Hipwell or Linda Schmidt.