Entrance to the expanded Chemainus Valley Museum. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Expanded museum draws rave reviews from the public

President lays out the importance of preserving Chemainus Valley history and role of volunteers

President Amy Brophy provided an overview of Chemainus Valley Historical Society and Museum and its significance to the Chemainus community during a delegation at a North Cowichan council meeting Sept. 18.

Brophy noted the community has supported preserving Chemainus Valley history since the society’s incorporation in 1963 and the CVHS has significantly shaped Water Wheel Plaza, a key asset in Chemainus.

“In 1990-1991 the society collaborated with the Municipality to build both the original Museum and public bathrooms alongside Water Wheel Park with funding by local private donations and the Municipality,” she indicated. “In 2009, the Museum and Municipality collaborated again and the Historical Society built both the expanded Museum and the Chamber’s Visitor Information Centre since the Chamber lost its home when the old Fire Hall was demolished.”

Brophy pointed out the Municipality funded the cost of the Visitor Centre – $281,000+ – which opened in 2015. She added the museum raised more than $400,000 in private, provincial and federal funds between 2009 and 2018 to expand the museum, but fell short of completing construction in 2015.

“The Municipality provided $115,000 to support completion, and with additional private donations and lots of volunteer support, the expanded Museum opened March 1, 2019,” Brophy indicated. “A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on the society’s anniversary August 17, 2019 with the Mayor, key supporters and the community. The lion share of Municipal funds for all construction was from forestry profits.”

The Museum greets up to 25,000 visitors a year from the local community, around Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, across Canada and the U.S.A. and around the world, Brophy pointed out.

She went on to say volunteers donate more than 5,000 hours a year and two part time staff work 1500+ hours a year as well as volunteer additional time. The operation of the museum and society includes: museum tours; providing information to tourists especially when the Visitor Centre is closed; promoting the murals with the maquettes displayed at the museum; managing the historical displays and collection of donated archives and artifacts; and researching and answering queries about family and community history.

The society and museum operates with support from Federal, Provincial and Municipal grants as well as donations and gift shop sales, Brophy continued in her overview.

“The Historical Society’s vision and plans for the future is a modern approach to museum management, which includes improved signage and story-telling, new exhibits on loan and events that attract the public and that better engage our own community,” she noted. “Improved social media presence on Facebook and the society’s website continues to be increasingly important and popular.

“The society also has a huge task to better organize the artifacts and archives in the expanded storage space downstairs to create new displays and better answer queries on family and community history. The library is supporting this effort by donating its shelving when it moves into a new home later this year.”

Brophy confided the members have received many compliments on the redesigned museum with the improved displays, open spaces, wonderful natural lighting from the large picture windows, high ceilings, dramatic Douglas fir posts and beams, and enhanced internal lighting.

She urged everyone who hasn’t had a chance yet to check out the new museum and stay tuned for new activities and events that engage the community.

“The key to the society’s and museum’s future success is volunteer manpower,” Brophy stressed. “So consider volunteering. It is very flexible and fun.”

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Chemainus sawmill display is featured prominently in the Chemainus Valley Museum. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Amy Brophy and dignitaries at the museum’s main entrance during the grand opening ribbon cuttting ceremony of the expanded museum. (Photo by Darran Chaisson)

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