Kathryn Gagnon looks back on 17 years at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives – Cowichan Valley Citizen
Kathryn Gagnon looks back on 17 years at the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives
On September 10, I resigned my position as curator / director of the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives.
Over the past 17 years, I have been honored to work alongside dedicated, knowledgeable and talented staff and volunteers to provide an exceptional visiting experience for our local communities and visitors from afar.
Together, we have partnered with educational institutions, local governments and community organizations to develop and deliver engaging and relevant programming for the public, for schools and for exhibitions. We have strengthened our capacities by collaborating with other institutions such as the University of Victoria, the University of Vancouver Island, the University of the Fraser Valley, Simon Fraser University, the Cowichan Tribes, the Town of Duncan, Cowichan Valley Regional District (Economic Development and Parks and Recreation), André and Associates + Design, Shawnigan Lake Museum, Duncan Business Improvement Association, Cowichan Regional Visitor Center, Cowichan Intercultural Society, Hul’q’umi’num ‘Language Academy, HeritageBC, BC Museums Association, Canadian Museums Association, and BC Historical Federation. These collaborations have enabled us to provide visitors with a memorable and transformative cultural experience and to disseminate information about our history and heritage, such as through the Linking the Stories: A Warm Land Heritage Workshop in 2019. For a Little museum, such partnerships provide access to expertise that we would not otherwise have.
Being a partner in research projects – such as the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project, Landscapes of Injustice, Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island, the Jacobs Research Fund and the South Asian Canadian Legacy Project – has enabled us to contribute to local knowledge and stories on the historical record. previously under-represented communities. For example, in 2015, we photographed and submitted digitized images of artifacts from our collection to UVic’s award-winning database for the Chinese Canadian Artifacts Project. Such partnerships have inspired a new story for the museum as we prepare for a major renovation of our galleries in 2017, thanks to a major BC | Canada 150 scholarship.
One vision for the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives that I have not seen come to fruition is the creation of a repository for community archival collections in the valley – which could be a truly regional effort. In 2006, I met with leaders of local cultural organizations to discuss the amalgamation of our respective collections, which would be stored in a new building designed to meet current and future storage needs, would have environmental controls and systems. state-of-the-art storage facilities, and be staffed with professional archivists and dedicated volunteers. The historical archives of the valley deserve to be preserved and accessible; all you need to do is visit our archives – in a space generously provided by Duncan’s Town Hall – to realize that we are the custodians of a wealth of material. Another objective was to collect archival documents that better represent the various communities in our valley. Our records are viewed by a variety of users, such as filmmakers, writers, people undertaking environmental studies, and sports enthusiasts. In 2006, CN engineer Ralph Morris donated a wealth of information about his years overseeing the maintenance of the Kinsol Trestle, which then played a role in the rehabilitation of the structure in 2011. Collecting, preserving and creating access to materials like this in a centralized building system is still a dream.
It has been a privilege to manage the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives and to share the knowledge, stories and experiences of valley communities through exhibits and programs; the institution holds the testimonies of our history, which belongs to all. My role as custodian – collecting, researching, interpreting and presenting, with many collaborators, the cultural heritage of the Cowichan Valley – has been a joy. Thanks to the work of many, the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives is a thriving and vibrant cultural organization.
I want to thank the many enthusiastic and supportive people I have worked with over the years, both inside and outside the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives, who understand the importance of the work we do to our community. Museums are powerful platforms for change, transformation and commemoration, and I encourage you, the community, to continue to support and value the ongoing activities of local cultural institutions.