Volunteers Shelley Creelman and Joy Jeffries work on some of the taxidermy items rescued from the Natural History Centre, which was situated in the Hornby Island Community School. Photo supplied

Restoration efforts underway for popular Hornby Island nature exhibit

Volunteers are fundraising to save the Hornby Island Natural History Centre’s northern Gulf Island treasures, specimens, and artifacts after the recent school fire.

In the early morning of Aug. 26, a fire at the Hornby Island Community School caused a third of the building to burn down and the rest to be damaged by smoke and water.

Since the early 1990s, this vibrant community school has been home to a Natural History Exhibit, which later became the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, a popular attraction that showcasing the unique environment of the island and offering educational programs.

Unfortunately, because of the fire, the entire natural history collection suffered serious damage from smoke and fine soot.

A dedicated group of volunteers, five of whom are retired staff from the school, are now in the process of removing the collection from the building, preparing it for restoration, maintenance, and eventual relocation, which they hope will be back to the school once it is rebuilt.

Natural History volunteer, Tina Wai, who taught K-1 in the school for many years, said that after the fire many people from both on and off-island expressed concern about the collection.

“One former student came up to me and the first thing she asked was, ‘Is the snowy owl okay?’”

The school children feel ownership of the exhibit. Since the beginning, they have helped build it by donating found specimens and raising money to preserve them on display.

The collection includes displays on forests and minerals, geology, fossils and bones, entomology, marine life, herring life cycle, shell midden, mammals, raptors and small birds. It offers fascinating geological information on the diverse rock formations that make up Hornby Island, world class fossils including giant ammonites unique to the island, and a wonderful collection of taxidermied local bird specimens.

The Natural History Centre also offers student focused activities, nature walks, expert speakers, and workshops.

Since the fire, many people have expressed their concern about the Natural History Collection and a GoFundMe page has been started to support the restoration efforts.

“We are dedicated to making the collection and our educational outreach programs available to the public in the future and to ensure that these continue to help people deepen their connection with and respect for the natural environment,” said Wai.

To donate towards the restoration and re-establishment of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, visit https://bit.ly/2NEyiWi

The Community School is also fundraising to rebuild. To help with the School Renewal Fund, visit https://hornbyeducation.com/school-renewal-fund/

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