Heritage Park growing steadily

It's been a busy year for Heritage Park Museum – with more projects and events planned for the future

During my interview with Terrace Heritage Park Museum curator Kelsey Wiebe at her office in a preserved heritage house I heard several beeps coming from outside.

A motion sensor at the front gate, Wiebe explained. Though each time she checked out the window, she said nobody was there.

“Just the wind …” she said. “… probably.”

If there are ghosts at the heritage museum, they must be flattered at all the attention they have been getting under Wiebe’s curatorship.

For one thing, Wiebe revealed at the museum’s March 28 AGM that Terrace has been chosen to host the BC Museums Association annual general meeting June 14-16.

Wiebe told the board of directors that 2012 saw a rise to 1,300 general tourists from 1,000 the year before. Special event numbers also rose from 3,410 to 3,589 despite the teachers strike.

The board has been pushing for city council to provide money for a new downtown museum, however, nothing was included in this year’s city budget. A recent grant of $20,000 from local lottery millionaire Bob Erb means another boost.

“We have some funds set aside in a donations account for the downtown museum,” Wiebe said, though not “great amounts … we put some of Bob Erb’s money aside for the downtown museum and will use another portion for either programming or a capital project this summer.”

For now, staff continues to plan for the museum, and to build their case for it.

The museum held 50 or more special events last summer.

“That was just me being crazy,” Wiebe said. “When a summer student would suggest something, I would say yes.”

Highlights from last year included staging a historical drama, and hosting an artists-in-residence program organized as part of the Summer Arts Festival, as well as multiple events at River Boat Days, with the help of a huge volunteer turnout.

Special events benefitted from the help of 987 volunteer hours, and 1,599 volunteer hours were put towards organizing special events. The total hours represented about $50,595 value last year, Wiebe said.

Halloween party attendance hit 900—the most since the event started 12 years ago.

Wiebe and the summer employees also organized two days of Tsimshian language—called Sm’álgyax—workshops at Riverboat Days and button blanket and weaving workshops, which shows their renewed commitment to representing First Nations culture.

Their mandate is to consolidate the Heritage Park Museum to representing the years 1890-1930 of pioneer settlement and to propose that a new downtown museum include First Nations history and other cultural history as well. Another boon to turn out are the Kids Culture Camps and bi-weekly seniors’ teas, Wiebe said.

Wiebe’s tenure, so far two years long, has focused on making the Heritage Museum more inviting. This included thinning hedges to make the site more visible from Kalum Ave., and organizing more kids events.

Wiebe said that German visitors accounted for the second highest percentage of visitors at the museum after Canadians. In response to these statistics, local translator Willie Schneider was asked to translate the museum’s brochure into German.

Wiebe also wants people to know that Heritage Park Museum is hiring for summer positions, including marketing coordinator, community programmer, and oral history coordinator. Wade Davis will be giving a talk June 15 as part of the Museums Association AGM. It is billed as a public event and there is a cover charge.

A week after the interview, I saw Wiebe at a coffee shop.

“It could have been the crows making the sensor go off,” she said.

Another excuse, I thought. Pioneer ghosts were showing up for a tea party on that sunny day, I am sure of it.