Sandra Parrish, executive director of the Museum at Campbell River, makes use of the sanitizer located on a small table right as you come through the doors of the facility – which now remain propped open to reduce contact. It’s been a trying few months for the facility, but they’re getting creative to continue to serve the community. Photo by Mike Davies – Campbell River Mirror

Museum at Campbell River adapting to its new COVID reality

‘The museum will always be here, however the community needs us.’

The Museum at Campbell River had big plans for the year.

The staff and volunteers were looking forward to growing their programming and continuing to be a voice in the community celebrating our history and culture.

But as we all know, 2020 had other plans.

“Things changed so drastically and so very quickly back in March,” says Sandra Parrish, executive director of the museum. “I was just beginning to think, ‘We might have to close the museum, but we’ll see how things go,’ and then, bam. We’re closed. And we didn’t know for how long. I was kind of in shock for a little while.”

But Parrish and her staff kept their heads about them, and set to planning how they could still serve the community even with the doors of the facility locked.

“We had to get creative,” she says. “I mean, there are the behind the scenes things like caring for the collection. It needs to be monitored and that kind of thing, so we had to put all that in place right away. But in terms of how do we keep the connection with the community in these changed times? That was a huge challenge.”

Thankfully, Parrish says, they had just launched a new website and were already exploring more ways to engage people virtually through social media channels and other online platforms.

“We already had an extensive video content library, but it wasn’t online,” Parrish says. “So we moved a lot of that onto YouTube and focused on getting content onto the website and the blog. We started doing worksheets and the weekly crossword puzzle, and then, during the summer, we had the summer students go ahead with the heritage puppet shows, and just moved them to an online, YouTube-based format, and now we’re looking at repurposing and repackaging that, maybe for use by teachers or those who will be homeschooling.”

RELATED: Museum celebrating 15 years of book sales

Moving forward, Parrish says, they have to just keep pivoting and posturing, to fill whatever role in the community the community itself needs from them.

“In a normal year we’d be just about to welcome 4,000 kids into this building,” she says. “So what can we do to support those people instead? We’re looking at coming up with some outside things and just keep looking for opportunities.”

One of those upcoming “outside things” is a Trivia Trek involving the “Our History” signs that are sprinkled throughout the community – sort of like an educational scavenger hunt – which they are planning for throughout October.

But as great as all of the online and outside programming is – and will be – Parrish admits that for a facility that prides itself on being a community gathering place, it’s been a tough slog.

“The numbers this summer were down about 75 per cent,” she says.

And for an organization that gets a good chunk of its annual operational funding from having people come through the doors, that’s not good.

“I’ll be honest. I’m a bit worried about 2021,” she says. “This year, very early on, the funders said, ‘Don’t worry, even if you’re not delivering all the programs, we’ll still fund you,’ and even though there was certainly a loss with the self-generated revenue (admissions and gift shop sales, for example), there were some governmental supports put in place. But what’s going to happen next year is a bit of a mystery.”

RELATED: Museum launches Sunday crossword puzzle inspired by local history

But in the end, Parrish is “cautiously optimistic” about the future.

“There’s always going to be a future in history,” she says. “There will always be a place for museums to be a touch point where we can learn about our past and understand our present by finding out how we got here. It remains to be seen how different things will be – and there will certainly be changes – but the museum will always be here, however the community needs us.”

You can stay up to date on programming, hours of operation and upcoming events – whatever they may end up looking like – by following the museum’s Facebook page (@museumatcampbellriver) or by visiting crmuseum.ca



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