$40K helps Chemainus museum double its size

The Chemainus Valley Historical Society has received $40,000 in an arts and culture grant from the Creative Spaces program.

Norma Greer, a spokesperson for the group, said she and her group were delighted, and this amount added to several other recent infusions of cash will help the group expand their Waterwheel Park-based facility.

“We had applied a year ago and got $50,000 and we applied again about six months ago and now they’ve given us a second amount. It’s fantastic,” Greer said.

That was also topped up by the Municipality of North Cowichan, with an additional $20,500 to go with the $150K the municipality has already put towards the project.

“It’s about a half a million dollar program and every dollar we get helps. We knew we would hear something at the end of March. I’ve been on tenterhooks waiting,” she laughed.

“The money is going towards the expansion. We are starting right now, this week, framing the two upper levels and building that in. We’re doubling the size of our museum and we’re also adding the tourist information centre. It’s going to be part of the building, but a separate unit. We will own the building, though.”

The info centre will be added on the eastern side of the museum building, sacrificing a deck but adding a new aspect to the entire facility, Greer said.

The museum has a lot of items and needs space.

“We are so chock full that we can’t move right now. We’ve been getting more and more as we’ve developed our ideas in the museum. We get a lot of compliments on how we are displaying everything. That always amazes me because it’s done almost 100 per cent by volunteer staff. We’ve had top people from museums around the world compliment us. The last one was from a big museum in Toronto; he said he’d never seen such good displays as ours.”

Construction will be going on throughout the summer.

“We hope to be finished the build by next year. Then we’ll be reorganizing all the displays in 2015 and getting it ready to have a grand opening in February of 2016. It will be 25 years in 2016 since the museum opened. We’re tying it in with the anniversary date.”

“Council also has committed $150,000 for the visitors centre part of it,” said North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure. “So that is going to be really nice: a new visitors centre right in the middle of the park, close to where the buses unload. The centre will be brand new, too, rather than a 60- or 70-year-old building. It’s going to be very nice.”

The B.C. government is active in backing this kind of project, according to Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stillwell.

She said, on announcing the grant and two others to Island operations, “Keeping arts and culture alive in B.C. is supported by these community organizations. I encourage everyone to take an interest in the work done by these groups.”

The Chemainus Valley Museum has many displays of early historical artifacts and showcases, among many subjects, early Japanese settlement, and also includes a more-than-a-century-old Bible belonging to the first midwife in Chemainus.

The gala days of the hospital balls in the 1860s are also celebrated and, of course, there is a logging display with early chainsaws, cross saws, axes and many other items related to the lumber industry including the old Chemainus sawmill whistle.

The Chemainus Valley Historical Society was established in June 1963 by a small group who saw the need to preserve the history of the community. 

By the 1970s the society started raising funds for a site to showcase the collections but unfortunately the group’s first building was destroyed by fire.

By 1991 the sod was turned and the new Chemainus Valley Museum at Waterwheel Park was opened that summer.

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