Category Archives: Museum

Our Ain Folk Museum – Refreshed


By Claire King

museum newThe 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.

Museum Renewal Project

The Denman Museum was started by the Kirk family as a private collection, and moved to the DS&MS building.   Later, an addition was added to the building to permanently house the museum.  Since then, it has been maintained and kept open by a few dedicated volunteers, but over time, the facilities became ‘tired’, and the collection had not been well preserved or renewed.

Over the years, the Museum had gradually become a dark and dismal place.   Although there have always been a few stalwarts who volunteered to keep the doors open during the summer months, there had been no initiatives to clean and renovate the space, and little effort to maintain the condition of the collection.

The volunteer group had an ‘arms length’ relationship with the DS&MS Board of Directors – they had operated autonomously for so long, that new people joining the Board assumed that all was well.

In 2014, it was brought to the Board’s attention that, after all, the Museum was part of their responsibility.  With this in mind, (and complaints from a renter) maintenance work began with a washroom repair and upgrade.  On further inspection, it was noted that the storage room was crammed so full of ‘stuff’, that it was impossible to enter.

When the Museum volunteers did empty the room, it was discovered that a good portion of the contents was actually garbage and was taken to the dump.  Coffee cups, old mops, discarded chairs, cardboard boxes, and piles of newspapers were disposed of.  Other items consisted of ‘donations’, which were merely old, and not necessarily appropriate for display.  Without an acquisition policy in place, volunteers were loath to decline or dispose of anything lest they insult a donor family.

MuseumrenoWhen Board members saw the bare room, they were stunned.   An undetected slow leak had resulted in stained and rotting walls and furnishings.  A sad old cupboard took up half the room and was filled with more questionable items.   Something had to be done, and so the Museum Renewal Project began.

Prior to the Museum opening last July, the Board formed a Museum Sub-Committee to manage renovations and oversee operations.

Both rooms were scrubbed, damaged walls repaired, stains covered, and everything was given a fresh coat of paint.   One Board member painted every day for two weeks, and the space was transformed, well ahead of the usual opening on July 1st.

A tour of the Comox AF Museum backrooms inspired a simple, but effective storage system to house artifacts not on display, and a great deal was learned about museum management from the Program Manager, who later came to Denman to give a presentation.   Work tables were purchased to replace the dilapidated furnishings that had been destroyed as a health and safety risk.

Also last spring, a ‘visioning’ process began, which included interviews, discussions and a survey to gauge community interest and to create a contact list of people who would be interested in participating.  The Board wanted to ensure that everyone in the community had an opportunity to voice their opinions.

With survey results in hand, the Board invited those interested  to attend a presentation given by Colonel Jon Ambler of the Comox Air Force Museum, a museum veteran and an enthusiastic supporter of small museums in the Comox Valley.   He covered a number of aspects of museum planning and management, and answered questions from attendees.

A ‘Community Conversation’ was held a few days later, resulting in lots of ideas, renewed interest and new volunteers.

The Museum Sub-Committee followed up with a presentation to volunteers about organizational structure and the liability of Directors, noting that public safety was an important consideration.   Artifacts could not be left on the floor as tripping hazards, and heavy items had to be secured so that they didn’t fall and injure anyone.

Old military artillery shells were found to be illegal to possess, and a contingent from the Air Force base – in a somewhat dramatic scene – removed them by zodiac because they could not be transported by ferry.

20150428_211508Many of the artifacts were found to be in shocking condition, but decisions about what could be done to resuscitate them was left to the museum volunteers, who had some expertise in that area, or were prepared to do the research.

Summer of 2015 saw an increase in visitors, new volunteers, and excitement about the possibilities and future plans.

The ad hoc Museum Sub-committee was retired in the fall, when most members finished their term of office, and the volunteers have recently adopted the “Friends of the Museum” as their new moniker.

The DS&MS Board is justifiably proud of the successful project, and wish the ‘Friends’ well in continuing with the Museum renewal.