Could your past hold the key to the future?

Museum and archives looks for the past

Get out the DeLorean, Sidney Historial Museum is set to celebrate 40 years by winding back the clock and cruising down Beacon Avenue.

The Sidney museum and archives, housed at separate locations in Sidney, are run by the Society of Saanich Peninsula Museums that has humble roots that sprouted four decades ago with one woman.

“May John and her husband Joseph collected a lot of the artifacts from the Peninsula … eventually when the customs house moved out, May John and some others went to the Town of Sidney and asked if they could open a historical museum,” said Peter Garnham, executive director of the society. “From there the artifacts have built up.”

Now several thousand artifacts rotate through displays that lure visitors, school groups, and locals looking at the temporary displays in the Old Post Office building on Beacon Avenue.

“When we moved into the post office site … we were running about 3,500 to 4,000 visitors. Now since we have the temporary exhibits, including the Lego exhibit, we’re up at about 14,000 to 15,000 a year, so it’s a huge difference.” Garnham said. “Particularly with the temporary exhibits, it’s to encourage people to come in and see the permanent exhibits as well.”

The rotating shows include everything from artisans such as quilters and wood turners, to teddy bear collections and the popular three-month long Lego exhibit that starts each year.

“It’s a very active museum,” Garnham said. “We change about 50 per cent of our permanent exhibits every year.”

During July and August, the temporary exhibit will be Beacon Avenue Through the Ages.

“We found there’s a whole number of shops, cafes, dance halls, transportation links, everything, (on Beacon),” Garnham said.

As always, the museum will draw heavily on its archives to fill out the celebratory exhibit.

“The museum without the archives is really a place of history, but with no understanding. The archives interprets the history which is provided in the imagery and everything else,” explained Brad Morrison, archives manager. “The museum can put together displays with a point of accuracy and a flow through which people can actually walk and have an experience. Through the museum (they are) learning the history and the ambiance of the area, the culture, the flavours.”

Although filled to the brim — literally, the small office below municipal hall is filled to the rafters with files — the archives don’t have it all.

“Certain parts of the 1920s and 30s we don’t have a lot,” Garnham said. “We are appealing to Peninsula residents for any historical photos or documents relating to the Peninsula, and especially Beacon Avenue.”

Visit or call 250-655-6355 to offer a piece of history to share for the 40th anniversary.