Peter Garnham’s long history as executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives is now forever etched in the museum itself.
Family and friends joined local officials including Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith and local MP Elizabeth May to surprise Garnham on his last official day – unveiling of sandblasted cedar sign bearing his name on the wall of the museum’s lower level, now officially called the Peter Garnham Gallery.
Alyssa Gerwing, who followed Garnham into the role of executive director, had asked Garnham to come to the facility under the pretext of discussing renovations. (Garnham stepped down from his executive director position last summer, switching roles with Gerwing, who had served as associate director. He remains involved with the museum through his role as director on the board of the Sidney Museum and Archives Society).
As Garnham entered the room Monday, Richard Novek, the society’s chair greeted him in person, as did countless others, appearing as tiles on a video screen. Gerwing then dropped the ruse.
Garnham is retiring after more than 25 years with the museum, including more than two decades as its executive director, during which he helped to move the facility to its current location in the Old Post Office building. As part of this move, Garnham helped to create the society currently running the museum after the Town of Sidney ceased to operate it as an internal department.
“This gallery was chosen to be dedicated to Peter Garnham, because it was here that the museum got its start at this location,” said Gerwing. “As Peter has told me, there was a pile of crates full of artifacts in the middle of this room and a string of construction lighting overhead. From there, the museum grew to the organization that it is today, a well-loved feature of the Saanich Peninsula community and Peter was its sole employee for 15 of his more than 25 years of service.”
Gerwing also used the occasion to personally thank Garnham for hiring her three years ago. “Thank you for giving me to opportunity to do something I am passionate about and for mentoring me throughout it all.”
May said no words can describe Garnham’s vision, commitment and perseverance. “I don’t know how many LEGOs you put together over the years, how many Teddy bears you have assembled,” said May, who called the museum’s Chief Dan George exhibition one of the “most stunning.”
Garnham’s leadership has helped residents build a “sense of place and community, which quite frankly is envy of the many smaller communities everywhere,” said McNeil-Smith. “Your accomplishments are enormous.”
Novek called Garnham “one of the kindest, smartest and most generous” people, he has known. “He has worked tirelessly to bring the museum from oblivion to the well-known and respected organization that it is today.”
Garnham, visibly touched, thanked everybody with whom he has worked over the years. “Of course, my love and heart is here in the museum and it always will be.”
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