Museum fundraising for an Interactive Children’s Area

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, February 14 2017

In 2016, after a strategic planning retreat, the Gabriola Historical & Museum Society’s Board of Directors came up with five goals that included working more closely with community groups and creating interactive displays and materials for children. With these initiatives in mind they decided to apply to the Village Food Market (VFM) to be selected for their Community Card Program for the amount of $5,000.

“We have an intertidal beach zone,” says Joan Merrifield, the Museum’s Director, “and you can go out and do cloth rubbings of the petroglyphs, but we realized we needed more interactive displays to engage children. Looking at the inside design of the museum, we have quite a number of static displays, but there’s nothing for children. We looked at other museums like the [Vancouver] Aquarium and at other museums on Vancouver Island to see what they’re doing.”

“We like the idea of creating a beach quest display, with a working table and a larger magnifying glass, so children can look at artifacts and describe them using their senses. This would be a key element to the proposed interactive children’s play area.

“We’ll have search bins where they could look at doing activities such as putting shells from the beach into a bin to sort and categorize. Each bin would have a different activity and the bins would take learning further,” says Merrifield, who is a retired Grade 6 teacher at Gabriola Elementary School (GES) and has lived on Gabriola for 25 years.

Currently, the GES Kindergarten and Grade 1 class has been to the museum and Merrifield says other teachers are now phoning to book their programs. Something the museum would like to address is providing activities for children so that when families come to the museum the children won’t be bored, resulting in the family leaving and saying they will come back another time.

The new play area will involve changing the layout in the centre of the museum. Behind the current intertidal zone display there are glass panels and this is the area that will be converted.

Merrifield says the Hippy Centre is very popular and they would like to create a dress-up area so students can try on different clothing and connect with each display. There is also a computer to update and a microscope to purchase. Merrifield has been involved with the museum for three years and has worked on the accessible walkway and the native plant garden as well as the interpretive signage for the plants.

“It’s wonderful to have been a teacher and now to use those skills in another way,” says Merrifield, who first came to the museum and realized what an amazing resource it was.

“One of our goals is that we’re working with the Gabriola Arts Council (GAC) on their 20th anniversary, to create history about artists on the island, and share the stories of artists. We’re also working with the People for a Healthy Community (PHC) on an elder program, which is taping elders telling their stories and incorporating those into the museum.”

The museum has been open at its current site since 1991 and last year, with GERTIE bus tours, the museum was able to tell the stories of the first 10 families on Gabriola.

“It’s important that people know why the land was settled the way it was, by farmers first, not by people who wanted a house on the water. The Grays and the Silvas came from Portugal and were interested in shipping and boats. When you know the story, your knowledge of Gabriola opens right up and we’ll be doing the GERTIE bus tours this year. An interpreter goes along with the bus, and stops at sites and explains the history, and points out to people an old house built in 1800s that might look like a fallen down shed, but it was the first house of a long line of families who lived here and has a very interesting history.” 

“We’ve also received $500 from the Gabriola Recreation Society to develop school program materials and we’re working on that right now.”

In the next five and ten years, Merrifield sees the museum as a vibrant centre where locals can come more often and hang out with their children and learn about what’s going on.

“We have a meadow and picnic tables, and families can come and learn about the museum and have family time there. We might have a reading group for children while parents are at the market on Saturdays, to help support the community and provide the knowledge and expertise about Gabriola and continue with that.”

Merrifield also wants to remind the community about the contest it started, to create a flag for Gabriola. “We’ll be visiting GES to talk to the students. We’re going to present the information to the students in the next two weeks and they’ll be busy doing flags.” 

She says anyone can submit a flag to the contest, not just students. The contest closes March 15, 2017. 

“There’s a lot going on. We’re pretty excited.”