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Michael Goodchild seeks to build on legacy as new executive director of Sidney Museum

Goodchild has previously worked at Royal Ontario Museum and Calgary’s Military Museums
Michael Goodchild, executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, stands next to one of the pieces of the museum’s new Little Black Dress exhibit that runs through Oct. 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Five weeks into his new job as the executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, Michael Goodchild is still learning things about his place of work and team.

Despite its relatively small size, the museum has a fairly sizable collection with over 6,000 items. “And then there are all the other moving parts of a museum — like finances,” he said.

The museum has also recently replaced its most recent exhibit, the Suitcase Project tracing the legacy of Canada’s internment of Japanese-Canadians, with its new exhibit titled Little Black Dress linking the evolution of fashion and social change.

So Goodchild (who replaced Alyssa Gerwing) has been busy to say the least, all while having moved from the Lower Mainland and getting married recently.

Goodchild’s arrival has also coincided with other personnel changes at the facility that serves both Sidney and North Saanich. The facility also has a new assistant director (Megan Houghton) and new education and outreach coordinator (Jessie Johnston).

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On the surface, this confluence appears to be a disadvantage. But experience so far suggests otherwise. “Even though it is a really new staff that doesn’t have a ton of experience working together, everyone just meshed really, really well,” said Goodchild. “Everybody picked a different aspect of the task to work on and everybody has been pulling their weight and everybody has helped each other out.”

In fact, the new staff members have been able to see the facility with a fresh set of ideas, said Goodchild.

He said he will continue his predecessor’s work of bringing travelling exhibitions to the museum to broaden its reach.

“Continuing that trend will enable the museum to be more successful and put us on the map,” he said.

Museum staff is also passionate about working and improving relations with WSANEC Peoples. “We have a number of Indigenous objects in our collection and we are currently working through the process of determining what we might be able to return to these communities,” he said.

Goodchild, a native of England who has worked at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto’s Royal Canadian Military Institute and Calgary’s Military Museums before coming to Sidney, sees museums as podiums for communities and individuals to share stories. “I love the idea of storytelling,” he said.

To this end, he looks to create connections and commonalities between different communities. “I really want to prioritize as well the experiences of communities that have perhaps not been as effectively served by museums in the past,” he said. “They have stories, they have narratives that are worth sharing and people should know about them.”

This said, everything has to happen within the mandate of the museum. “At the same time, I don’t want to devalue the incredible material, culture and history of Sidney, North Saanich and the Saanich Peninsula. The museum’s primary mandate is servicing the community,” he said.

To this end, Goodchild is already making plans to tap into local knowledge and resources in planning for a Remembrance Day-themed exhibition with the region’s rich connection to Canadian military history, both distant and more recent, one of the selling points of coming to Sidney, along with its natural beauty and other aspects.

“Sidney is a wonderful town,” he said. “I have felt very welcomed here. Everyone has been extremely friendly to me. Everyone has been incredibly patient with me as I learn my way around the museum and around town.”

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