Guests have been turned away all summer from Vanderhoof’s history museum but the District plans to open the venue bigger and better than ever next spring.
“We relied too much on the volunteers. They do an excellent job but the reality is that it is too big a job for a group like that to do,” said Tom Clement, director of community development. “Next year we will open fresh and new.”
Land the museum sits on is owned by the municipality but, the buildings themselves are owned by the Vanderhoof Historic Society. Until now the onus of running the buildings rested solely on the Historical Society and volunteers. The District now sees the need to start playing a much bigger role.
“We had a whole elementary class of children come all the way from Prince George just to walk around but, their was no one here to open the buildings,” said Collette Winston, member of the Historic Society. “It was a shame to see them come all this way, and it’s not the first time this happened.”
The plan is to have the site running regularly next year after making some aesthetic and managerial changes. A four-month restoration project initiated in the summer through Canada Employment is already near completion.
The buildings visible from the HWY have been spruced up and new walkways have been put in to give the site more accessibility.
Buildings hiding in the back acreage of the location were either restored or taken down.
“We couldn’t save them all but we repaired the ones we could. But again its not just throwing money at it, its becoming an active partner,” said Mr. Clement.
Moving forward the municipality has developed a proposal of what they would like to see for next season. It includes key changes such as moving the Vanderhoof information centre over to the historic site location.
Tax payers currently fund both the Historic Society and Chamber of Commerce, so we want to make sure we’re not duplicating things, said mayor Gerry Thiessen.
“If we amalgamate both entities it would be much more efficient for tax payers and it will also help tourists by not detouring them off the HWY,” said mayor Thiessen.
With the information centre on site, one person can then be responsible for the day-to-day operations of all the buildings and information centre.
“This site is too important to not have it be a real gem in the community,” said mayor Gerry Thiessen “We would like to take away things that may be too onerous [for the historical society] yet still let them to do the things that will allow them to express themselves and build capacity in the community. With someone always there it will also open up federal funding possibilities for hiring summer students.”
Looking further into the future, the District would like to incorporate Saik’uz culture into the venue with possible orientation exhibits, exhibition space and a retail store.
“It will defiantly build a bridge and allow people to see the types of crafts and handiwork being done at Saik’uz while giving artists an opportunity to market their product,” said mayor Thiessen. “Some people don’t know what we have and how close it really is.”
Changes to the historic site are still open for discussion. Anyone interested in joining the historic society or sharing ideas can contact Collette Winston on Facebook or Tom Clement at the District 250-567-4711.