Kathryn Gagnon has been the curator/manager at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives for 17 years. (Submitted photo)

Kathryn Gagnon has been the curator/manager at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives for 17 years. (Submitted photo)

Kathryn Gagnon recalls happy and fulfilling memories at the museum

Gagnon served as manager/curator at Cowichan Valley Museum for 17 years

For Kathryn Gagnon, creating a spectacular experience for every visitor to the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives was her main focus for the 17 years she spent as its curator and manager.

Gagnon, who has decided to move on with her career and leave the museum, said her time in Cowichan has been among the most enjoyable in her life.

She said that she has tried her best to have all the different communities in the Cowichan Valley represented at the museum.


“The Valley has so many diverse communities and my job provided me the opportunity to work with them and share their knowledge and stories,” Gagnon said.

“The feedback we’d get was usually positive and grateful.”

Gagnon said she remembers that when the president of the Métis Nation came to Cowichan about 10 years ago, she didn’t even know there were members of the Métis Nation living in the region.

She said the museum spent almost three years preparing a temporary exhibit about the Métis and their links to Cowichan.

“I was thrilled to share their stories,” Gagnon said.

“That was one of the best [exhibit] openings we ever had and we had an incredible number of visitors and lots of support for that exhibit. One of the most memorable things about the Métis exhibit is having a visitor say to me that the Métis in the area were invisible to her until she saw the exhibit. There’s no better way to measure the success of a museum than that.”

But, due to the small size of the museum, Gagnon said there was always a reliance on temporary exhibits to tell many of the local stories and it was disappointing when they had to take the exhibits down to make way for more.

She pointed to temporary exhibits the museum had on Cowichan sweaters and the sweater knitters from Cowichan Tribes, Duncan’s Chinatown, and on the region’s Japanese community, many of whom were interred during the Second World War.


“It was very disappointing when it was time to put these exhibits away and out of the eyes of the public,” Gagnon said.

“But then we received an $81,000 grant from the BC-Canada 150 fund and that allowed us to take aspects of our temporary exhibits and put them in our permanent gallery so people can see and learn from them.”

She said the museum had been working towards this for a number of years with André and Associates + Design, an international company specializing in exhibit designs, who did a preliminary estimate of the museum in 2013.

“They saw a lot of potential and we were prepared when the grant came available,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon said she is exploring other opportunities and she hopes to work and help out with similar institutions like the museum and archives as she continues her career.

“The last 17 years at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives was a real gift in my life,” she said.


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