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Telling British Columbia’s Stories: 6 of the Province’s Best Community Museums

By Mary Ann Bell
 

How best to learn the stories of a community than to visit their museum? All across the province, our towns and cities have community museums dedicated to sharing their history. Some are small and others more expansive, but they all have a common thread … the dedication and commitment of the curators and volunteers who are passionate about sharing the tales of their town.

From the culture of our Aboriginal people to the arrival of the Europeans and the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the arrival of the Gold Rush, British Columbia’s history is rich and fascinating. Step back in time at one of the province’s community museums and immerse yourself in British Columbia of yesteryear.

Whistler Museum

When most people think of Whistler they think of skiing in the winter and mountain biking and hiking in the summer! But there’s so much more to this world-famous resort municipality than outdoor adventure, though the outdoor adventure is definitely epic!  The history of how Whistler became the community it is today is rich and diverse. The Whistler Museum tells Whistler’s stories from the culture of the Squamish and Lil’Wat First Nations as ancestral stewards of the land, to the early pioneers who made the trek to what was then known as Summit Lake (now Alta Lake) to trap and fish, to the creation of the ski resort and the realization of a dream 50 years in the making when Whistler, and in partnership with Vancouver, won the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The museum is also a wealth of information for anyone interested in learning about Whistler’s famous black bear population.
4333 Main Street, Whistler
http://www.whistlermuseum.org/

Whistler Museum

Whistler Museum. Photo: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Creston Museum

Located in the Kootenay Rockies region of the province, the Creston Museum is the place to visit if you’ve ever wondered how the community came to be.  Located in a charming stone house, the museum has expanded over the years to house an extensive collection of artifacts significant to the history of the Creston Valley. Exhibits highlight the area’s forestry, mining and agricultural industries of the pioneer years, the amazing stories like, “The Great Railway Race” and the “Great Creston Bank Robbery”, and they even explain why, for part of the year, the time in Creston is different than that across the rest of the province!
219 Devon Street, Creston
http://www.crestonmuseum.ca

Creston Museum

Photo: Creston Museum

Langley Centennial Museum

Across the street, in the shadow of the highly acclaimed Fort Langley National Historic Site, sits the Langley Centennial Museum. Small, but mighty, this charming museum is packed with artifacts depicting the history of Langley, a thoughtful display of the community’s First Nations culture and a space for temporary exhibits. The current exhibit, “Langley in Transition”, displays photographs of how Langley has changed over the years, and a new exhibit entitled “Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art” will feature the artwork of 19 Syrian artists, several of whom still reside in war-torn Syria will run from Jun 9 to Sep 3. Langley and Fort Langley are located in Metro Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.
9135 King Street, Fort Langley
http://museum.tol.ca/

Langley Centennial Museum

Photo: Langley Centennial Museum

White Rock Museum

Take a trip down memory lane inside this fascinating little community museum and learn about  White Rock’s fascinating history as a vacation destination for Vancouver residents and its ties to the Great Northern Railway Company. The museum is situated in the original White Rock train station and houses a collection of artifacts and photographs that communicate the history of the area. Their City by the Salish Sea exhibit highlights White Rock’s most iconic images, like the rock, the pier, and the train station and tells the stories of the Semiahmoo First Nations. Part of the exhibit is the recreation of the train station ticket office, as it would have looked in the 1950s. The museum is also home to an excellent little gift shop and offers guided historic walking tours in the summer. White Rock is located in Metro Vancouver close to the US border.
14970 Marine Drive, White Rock
http://www.whiterockmuseum.ca/

White Rock Museum

White Rock Museum. Photo: Explore White Rock

Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives – Gibsons

Learn about the history of the Sunshine Coast and its residents as you explore 2 floors of exhibits – including a “Beachcomber’s Relics” collection, from the long-running Canadian TV drama “The Beachcombers.”  Learn about the Sunshine Coast’s extensive maritime history, discover the significance that the First Nations had and continue to have in the region and spend time in their Natural History section that features an extraordinary butterfly collection. Gibsons is located a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in Metro Vancouver.
716 Winn Road, Gibsons
http://www.sunshinecoastmuseum.ca/

Sunshine Coast Museum

Sunshine Coast Museum. Photo: Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives

Vanderhoof Community Museum

Set on 27 acres of land just off Highway 16 in Central BC, this community museum depicts the history of Vanderhoof, “The Town that Wouldn’t Wait”. The museum grounds showcase beautifully restored 1900s buildings, including the Royal Bank and the Jail House, both of which are open for visitors to explore and pretend. Trees have been planted in honour of community pioneers, including one for this author’s Grandmother! Costumed interpreters are on-site during the summer and self-guided tours of the 1 km heritage nature trail takes visitors along Stoney Creek, an important traditional area for the Saik-uz First Nation.  Be sure to take some time to sample the pie in the OK Café … it’s legendary among locals and visitors.
478 1st Street, Vanderhoof
http://www.vanderhoofmuseum.com/index.html

Vanderhoof Museum

Vanderhoof Museum. Photo: Picture BC/Government of British Columbia

Mary Ann Bell

About the Author

As a tourism marketer and community manager for some of British Columbia’s most spectacular destinations, Mary Ann Bell spends her days writing, tweeting and posting! When she’s not online, Mary Ann can be found exploring Vancouver’s North Shore trails with her family and her camera, and trying new restaurants in the hunt for the best taco in Metro Vancouver.

 

5 responses to “Telling British Columbia’s Stories: 6 of the Province’s Best Community Museums”

  1. Lesley says:

    You should include in your list The Miniature Train Museum in Osoyoos – it is incredible and shouldn’t be missed. We only found out about it while watching an episode of The Amazing Race Canada that filmed a segment there – honestly well worth the visit.

  2. Mary Ann Mary Ann says:

    We LOVE the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad … and I think it’s awesome that you saw it on the Amazing Race! It really is amazing what they have been able to accomplish … a true labour of love. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thanks so much for including the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives on this list of great community museums in BC!

  4. Rod Engstrom says:

    I have found over the years that small communities have the best museums. Lyntton and Ashcroft are two prime examples. Kamloops was disappointing.

  5. Thank you! We are delighted to be included in your list of 6 of the Province’s Best Community Museums. The historic tours are offered year around and we also have a wonderful children’s area in the gallery featuring an interactive campsite, train, and beautiful magnetic wall mural. We invite everyone to come and visit our #gem by the sea.

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