More history, more fun at the museum

Expansion of the Sidney Museum and Archives gives more room for new exhibits

A new display at the Sidney Museum and Archives on Beacon Avenue is getting a lot of looks — and a lot of positive comments despite its unusual position.

Thanks to a major expansion program at the museum, the society had the room to bring in an outhouse.

Patrons, says society board chair Peter Wainwright, certainly think the display does not stink at all. In fact, he said it seems to be the most popular exhibit these days.

Being able to fit the outhouse into the museum (it’s part of an exhibit of the area’s pioneering days) is one of the benefits of the recent takeover of the former Military Book Shop, which has since moved to another building on Fourth Street. The added space is giving the museum the change to add new artifacts and displays that showcase the Saanich Peninsula’s early to modern history.

Visitors to the museum enter the upgraded space via Beacon Avenue and through what was once the book store entrance. Wainwright said it’s a bigger space, allowing more room for the reception area. A large poster outlining the society’s expansion plans and fundraising effort greets people as they come in.

From there, the museum is in the process of adding new artifacts and displays about the area’s First Nations — first stop on a museum tour. Wainwright said they have plans to really make a splash in this space — noting the society will only proceed as their fundraising effort allows.

That said, they have already added more to the museum and that is getting good reviews from visitors.

Local railway history will get a boost with a new model display under construction. Volunteer model railroaders are busy creating a scene of historical railways on the Peninsula. Wainwright added there will growth on other areas, too, such as the region’s agricultural and industrial industries, maritime activity and modern history (the 1960s to the 2000s).

“We are hoping to have a representation of that (modern) era,” Wainwright explained. “There is currently no place where we are telling that story.”

The additional space also means there is more room for their temporary exhibits — such as the planned Plein Air Painters showcase later this month and the popular Lego displays in February.

This year, Wainwright adds, the museum is working with the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. Next year, people can expect to see historical equipment (watch for classic fire trucks downtown) and the story of the local fire department and its contributions to the community over the decades.

The museum expansion and volunteers’ efforts are giving the society a bigger presence in Sidney. Wainwright said they are working on taking the facility into the modern era as well, during their long-term plans.

New security systems are going in soon and there are plans to have the museum a wireless hotspot, allowing visitors to use QR codes on displays to learn more about local history. A smart phone app is also in the works, Wainwright said. The hope is that app would provide history and links to existing attractions, businesses and sites that people can visit.

“This will allow us to link what we offer with what other people provide on the Peninsula.”

Fundraising for all of these extras and expansion of the museum is still ongoing. Wainwright said they’ve had some great donations from individuals and organizations like Tanners Books and the Saanich Peninsula Foundation, adding their goal is to reach $100,000 by the end of the year.

“We are going to become more visible now,” he said. “There are just so many possibilities.”

To learn more, visit www.sidneymuseum.ca.