As I write this, it is the day after the winter solstice, the clouds and mist have dispersed, and the sun is shining. I am at my desk and through the office window I can see blue sky above the trees. Thinking back to this time last year, I was preparing to move out of the office and packing up exhibits for safe keeping during the planned 2023 renovations. My desk ended up next to our natural history exhibit and I spent the next two and a half months under the watchful eye of our resident beaver and otter.
2023 brought many exciting changes and developments to the Gabriola Museum. Winter renovations created a new exhibit space and two accessible bathrooms. A diligent team worked through January and into March to turn an under utilized space into a beautiful open room ready for the new Snuneymuxw Gallery exhibit (launching in 2024). Outside the structure of the new Outdoor Learning Centre was coming together.
In March we launched the Pandemic Stories exhibit with a cleaver display in the Museum as well as a website hosting video interviews. A thoughtful book containing stories written by Gabriolans on their own experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic was sent to every household on Gabriola. This project was part of a larger effort spearheaded by the Gabriola Arts Council to celebrate the ingenuity of the Gabriola community as we found new ways of supporting each other through tough times.
After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, we were eager to bring back our Trivia Night fundraiser. Traditionally Trivia was held in November, we decided to try an early spring date instead. And so, April 15 marked the return of Trivia Night with four rounds of Gabriola themed trivia, more delectable desserts than even 70 people could eat, and an amazing array of auction items and services generously donated by local businesses.
Over the winter and spring, we also resumed our Gabriola Museum Talks series, a once-a-month talk featuring local speakers. We followed Bert TerHart on his solo canoe journey across Canada, learned fascinating facts on groundwater and enjoyed stories of the Beachcombers by Steve Usher, encountered the rough terrain of the Inca Trail Marathon with Leslie Hazeldine and Tina Lynch, and we were brought back in time with Doug Harrison’s art and stories of the working west coast.
In April, Earth Day saw the launch of the new Native Plant Trail. Elder Geraldine Manson and Dr. Nancy Turner conducted a guided tour sharing medicinal and cultural uses of different native plants. During Museum Week in May, a special dedication ceremony was held to honour Stan and Maxine McRae. A handcrafted bench was commissioned from Andre Nobels and placed on the McRae Covenant Lands. Stan and Maxine contributed much to our community, not least of which was their generous donation of the property the Museum sites on. With the purchase of the 19 acres next door to the Museum from the McRae estate, we are continuing the McRae’s legacy of protecting vulnerable natural environments. The Nature Conservancy of Canada donated $25,000 on behalf of the McRae family towards the mortgage on the McRae Lands.
Throughout the summer we held annual events including National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD) with the Gabriola Elementary School (GES), A public NIPD ceremony, and Canada Day ceremony, along with weekly summer programs. GES brought 150 students to the Museum for a performance by Snuneymuxw drum group Footprints of the Wolf, stories by Dave Bodaly, and fry bread made by Lorna Johnny. At our public NIPD day Elder Geraldine Manson shared historical information on the five Snuneymuxw villages. Snuneymuxw weavers Stephanie Thomas and Chenoa Point shared examples of their wool and cedar weaving with Lorna keeping us all well fed with her delicious fry bread.
After a busy summer the Museum kicked off September with Telling Island Stories, a two-day event. We took a guided walk on the shore where Steve Usher enlightened us as to the amazing geological features under foot. Next, we gathered along False Narrows as Dave Bodaly answered questions about the Snuneymuxw village that once stood there. We rounded out the first day with a performance by Gerry Bowes of his chapbook, ‘A Funny Kind of Species’. Friends of Patricia ‘Patsy’ Ludwick also gathered to share memories of an extraordinary woman and friend, each reading a piece of Patsy’s poetry.
The next morning a sold-out bus tour departed from the Museum for a tour around the south end of the island. Tour guides Danna Lewis and Elder Geraldine Manson shared personal and historical stories at a variety of significant sites. We then sat down together for a delicious lunch made by Bruno’s Kitchen and Catering. Closing out this two-day celebration of ‘islanders telling island stories’ was the one and only Georgi Georgiev. Artist, inventor, mentor, and friend Georgi took us on a journey through his career and passion for creating bicycles and modes of transport that allow all people to be able to enjoy the freedom of movement and speed.
September 30 marked the 3rd annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Many members of the community gathered at the Museum to mark this day. Snuneymuxw Elders joined us and shared their stories and songs with us. Elder Geraldine Manson also launched her second book, ‘Snuneymuxw Mulstimuxw – Sacred Place Names, their Travels and Stories’.
Although the Museum held no events in October, much preparation was under way as we had set ourselves the challenge of running Trivia Night for the second time this year. Having tried it in the Spring we felt the traditional fall date was a better fit. The Events Committee and many volunteers set to work organizing trivia questions, silent auction items, prizes, desserts and more. The community response to our call for gently used art for the silent auction was very generous. I believe a new tradition has been born and we will continue with the theme of gently used art as a fundraiser for the Museum. Our November Trivia Night was a great success, with the funds raised climbing to over $6000.
Ah, we made it! December – peace and quiet. Not for long! Feeling the dark of winter encroaching it was time to put up the Christmas lights and look forward to inviting Gabriolans to the Museum for an afternoon of Christmas cheer. This event was particularly special for us. As our ad said, it was ‘our gift to you’. An opportunity to thank you for your support and belief in the importance of the Museum’s mission. The day, December 10, saw over 50 people come through the Museum, enjoying delightful music by Max ‘Banjoman’ Cossette, hot apple cider, and sweet deals in the gift shop.
This is not an exhaustive review of all the events and projects taken on by the Gabriola Museum in 2023 but we wanted to share the major events and highlights to show what your support enables us to do. As a small community Museum, we are proud of what we have been able to achieve. But without your support and the dedication of our volunteers, none of this would be possible. We have many people to thank and while we cannot list them all here, please know we are honoured by your gift to us, be it a word of encouragement, volunteering your time, or your financial support.
All I have left to say is, ‘Thank you’, Merry Christmas and we can’t wait to see you in the New Year!
On behalf of the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society Board of Directors,
Laura N. Baldamus