The Gabriola Museum has reached a quarter century as the keeper of Gabriola Island’s history.
Last month the museum was open free of charge for a two-day celebration in recognition of its 25th anniversary. Booths and displays were set up outdoors and a self-guided tour was offered, with speakers present at four historic sites on the island: The Gabriola Brickyard, Surf Lodge, Elder Cedar Nature Reserve and Page’s Resort at Silva Bay.
Museum president Joan Merrifield said it was an occasion worth celebrating.
“I would say it is a milestone because we started out with no secure funding and just raised money through donations and admission fees through the door,” she said. “And through the years we have secured funding with the RDN, an annual operating grant, which has completely stabilized our organization and in the last two yeas we’ve been able to hire staff which has changed everything.”
Merrifield said the increased staffing has allowed the museum to remain open longer and offer more events and programming. These include historical bus tours, speaking engagements, programming for elementary school students and National Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Canada Day celebrations. Thanks to federal funding made available to help mark Canada’s sesquicentennial, the museum also placed historical plaques around the island and produced a guidebook on historic sites.
“All of these things have come about in the last five years with our secure funding and our ability to have staff to organize them,” she said. “We have a very hardworking board of directors as well. It is a working board, not a governance board. Everybody works very hard.”
Merrifield said the museum holds “the history of Gabriolans and their past,” housing records from the island’s past newspapers and organizations. She said lots of people bring in artifacts and they get frequent requests from people researching family history.
After 25 years Merrifield say the museum is still in high demand. She said the gift shop is at capacity and they’re considering renovating their building and expanding their programming. But she added that as a small museum they’re looking at growth in a planned way, in order to move forward without outdoing their infrastructure.
“The museum is growing so fast that we are bulging out of our building,” she said.