The Alberni Valley Museum has re-opened with some new safety measures in place—as well as a new exhibit.
The newest show at the museum is called “Chief Dan George: Actor and Activist” and follows the life and impact of Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Dan George. George was an actor, musician, poet and author, as well as a spokesperson for the First Nations rights movement in B.C. and Canada in the 1960s and ’70s.
Although the exhibit is centered on George, it also delves into the history of Indigenous people in Canada using paintings, photographs and memorabilia donated by George’s friends and family.
“It talks about his life, as well as some of the history regarding First Nations rights and equality,” explained education curator Shelley Harding.
“Chief Dan George” is a travelling exhibit on loan from the North Vancouver Museum and will be available to view at the Alberni Valley Museum until March 2021.
The Alberni Valley Museum has been closed since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. At the time, the museum was showing a pair of travelling exhibits called Speaking to Memory/Project of Heart, which covered some of the history of residential schools in British Columbia.
“It was unfortunate that not everybody got to experience that exhibit,” said Harding.
Now, the museum is re-opening with COVID-19 protocols in place. Visitors must wear a mask to the museum and hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the lower gallery. Catalogue books have had to be removed and some artifacts can no longer be touched, even with hand sanitizer. The upper gallery is closed, but the lower gallery features a one-way path around each of the exhibits.
“We do look a little bit different,” said Harding. “We’re trying to keep people from having to back track and cross over one another.”
Although school programs have been cancelled, Harding said she was “very pleased” that the museum was still able to host a virtual heritage fair. The Alberni Valley Museum Regional Heritage Fair is one of the museum’s largest events every year, showcasing the research and hard work of local students. This year’s heritage fair took place online instead.
“We’re the only region in the province to do a virtual heritage fair,” said Harding. “We’re just so pleased with the outcome, and we’re glad we were able to celebrate students’ work in a different platform.”
She said the museum does plan to work with a virtual heritage fair again if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place next year.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Guests can drop in or reserve a time in advance. Call 250-720-2863 to book a gallery time.
“We’re really excited,” said Harding. “It’s taken us a while to prepare the museum for COVID-19 protocols, but we’re open and inviting people to explore the main floor, new exhibit and restocked gift shop. We’re so pleased to be welcoming visitors back to the museum.”