Museum artifacts boxed up

The homestead was moving to a permanent location and all the artifacts, doors, and windows had to be removed

The basement of the Salmon Arm Museum at RJ Haney Heritage Village was bursting at the seams when the Kew Homestead from the Salmon Valley was emptied last year.

The homestead was moving to a permanent location and all the artifacts, doors, and windows had to be removed.

A few staff members and a great team of volunteers emptied the log cabin and then there was a crisis. Where to put the museum’s stuff?

The farm implements were placed on pallets in the staff parking area and tarped for the winter.

“A grant from the City of Salmon Arm’s Grants-in-Aid program feels like a godsend,” says museum volunteer and board member Rosemary Wilson.

“It helped us to purchase a used container from Big Steel Box – they gave us a great deal.”

The container provided an opportunity to solve a storage issue until other exhibits in the village were built.

Once the empty relocated Laitinen, Pidhirney, and Kew houses receive their occupancy permits, artifacts in storage will see the light of day again.

“Why collect so much?” seems like a reasonable question.

“It is what we do, why we’re here,” answers Wilson with fire in her eyes. Wilson is passionate about R.J. Haney Heritage Village where she volunteers three days a week.

She’s right of course. Collecting is one of the five functions any community museum is supposed to do.

“But the collecting can’t be indiscriminate,” she says. “There’s only so much storage space.”

Wilson has been on the board for a long time. Seven years ago she helped revise the museum’s collections policy.

It was restructured to give staff better guidelines for accepting artifacts. Since then there’s been a moratorium on collecting items like skis, skates, Gestetners, typewriters, adding machines, cash registers, apple picking bags, grass seeders, adding machines, glasses, planes, chisels, saws, scythes, natural history relics, snow shoes, egg crates, men’s toiletry items, cigarette containers….. the list is extensive.

Why did the board limit collecting?

“It was irresponsible not to. We only need so many typewriters. We have 15. Two shelves of them. We don’t need more,” Wilson says.

“We’re not a specialty museum, like the ‘lamp museum’ in Donalda, Alta. We preserve the history of the region, not typewriters.”

Wilson also argues that some things just need to be saved, like the artifacts in the Salmon Valley Homestead that were in storage for 20 years.

“They are special and will be needed to tell the orcharding history of the area,” she said.

With the homestead moved, assembling the Peterson Barn is next on the list of things to do at the village.

When the site is complete, dairy and farming artifacts will be moved into the barn. It will be the perfect place for the cream separator, apple box lidder,  apple press, conveyor for apple boxes, and other farming equipment.

“That’s when we’ll have a real village,” Wilson says, noting everyone is grateful to get extra space to store the larger items that shouldn’t be in the museum’s basement.

“They are things that won’t be damaged by the cool storage over the winter. The new container has given us space to breathe.”

Thanks to the City of Salmon Arm and a super Job Creation crew, the Salmon Arm Museum can continue to do what it does best, preserve, collect, display, research, and interpret the history of Shuswap.

 

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