Museum eyes new Lonsdale location
The way Nancy Kirkpatrick sees it, the future of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives rests in its ability to engage residents.
It isn’t enough to present static artifacts. She wants to create a lively space, a real “community hub,” she says.
But, creating that kind of environment takes space and the current 3,500 square feet the museum enjoys on the second floor of Presentation House simply isn’t enough.
“It’s antiquated and doesn’t meet the needs of a community museum. Entwined Histories [the museum’s current exhibit] is a great example. The only reason we can show this is because we own it. No one would lend it to us because we don’t have the proper systems and humidity and airflow,” says Kirkpatrick, director of the museum.
“We need a central location that’s welcoming and inclusive. We need a place where people can come and discover something meaningful.”
An interest in a new museum plot isn’t a new development. Kirkpatrick says staff has been investigating various locations for nearly 20 years. Her predecessor, Robin Inglis, wanted it to be on the waterfront and participated in a number of planning studies in support of such a move. Once the interest in a Maritime Centre arose in 2005, council directed museum staff to consider other areas as potential sites for relocation. After a host of consultations, the Central Lonsdale neighbourhood was earmarked as a preferred site.
When the Onni Group purchased the Safeway property last summer with plans to redevelop the site into a large, master-planned community, the company began looking at various options for an amenity contribution because designs idea for the area required more density than the city’s Official Community Plan allowed. In a presentation to council in January, Onni representative Beau Jarvis discussed the company’s interest in providing a 20,000-sqaure foot museum in exchange for building a new 493-unit mixed-use community.
Various members of council expressed their concerns at the meeting over the size of the development and the long-term operational costs of the larger museum. To ease concerns, Kirkpatrick says Onni has agreed to fund a study on the operating costs of the proposed larger space, as well exploring fundraising options.
“There will certainly be nervousness over the density. But we need to think a little broader. Central Lonsdale is a designated town centre and needs a core of density,” says Bob Heywood, chairman of the North Van Museum and Archives Commission and former city councillor.
“When I was on council I was reluctant to encroach on single-family neighbourhoods. But there are a lot of good reasons for density and Central Lonsdale is a prime area. It has the room.”
In addition to the more interactive and experimental exhibits touted by both Kirkpatrick and Heywood – film and computer technology exhibit options have been discussed, as well as classroom areas for community discussion and debate – the museum owns about 20,000 artifacts currently being stored off site that could find more permanent homes in a larger space.
Tugboat engines, items from Dr. McNair’s old drugstore, skis from the Saxton family, furniture and trophies are to name but a few examples. It’s the story of North Vancouver, all sitting under a thin layer of dust. And those stories, Kirkpatrick says, deserve to be told. And regardless of whether old or new tales end up on display, it will take more space to tell them.