After six months of being without an executive director, the Chilliwack Museum recently welcomed Shawna Maurice to its historic building. She took over from interim executive director, Ron Denman, at the beginning of the year.
The Progress sat down with her recently to talk about her new position as executive director.
What are you bringing to Chilliwack?
“I’m bringing to the museum a little bit of revitalization. I think museums are progressing quite quickly and we’re not just facilities that display artifacts anymore, we’re very heavily involved in education and programming. That was something that I worked a lot with in Lloydminster (at the Cultural and Science Centre) and I’m planning to bring that here as well. We already have a great education program base, but moving more into public programming as well as engaging other demographics.”
What role do you think a museum plays within a community?
“I think museums are important for voicing current events and linking the past to the present so that we can make informed decisions on our future. I’m a passionate historian, but not everybody is, and it’s more important to focus on the present in museums by using the past as a lesson for the present.”
You had mentioned earlier that you want to branch out to a larger demographic as far as educational programs and such. What sort of things do you have in mind to bring those people in?
“Something we’ve kind of bounced around already is a trivia or games night that we could do on a monthly basis, and that would target probably an older demographic. Thinking about books clubs, and things like that, just to get people in the space — no so much to focus on the museum but to get them here and introduce them to the museum and all the things we can do. We do openings for exhibits now, but I definitely want to go down the events route a little more to engage the community. The Rooms museum in Newfoundland, they do ‘cocktails and culture’ once a month. That’s one of my favourite things that I’ve seen, people go to socialize and they discuss issues that are brought up. I want it to be a community centre, not just a museum.”
In addition to you, I understand the majority of the staff at the Chilliwack Museum are also new. How will that impact the next few months?
“I think it will be a very progressive time and we will be able to do a lot of things quickly because everybody is so open-minded. It’s not like coming into a staff that have been established for 25 years, and this is how we do it, and this is how we’ll keep doing it. They have lots of ideas, they’re very progressive and they’re very passionate — you’re new, you’re passionate, you’re excited.”
What piece of Chilliwack history are you looking forward to learning more about the most?
“I don’t know a lot about Chilliwack history so I would have to say that I’m learning it all. I’ve been reading The Chilliwack Story to try and get an overview of where I would like to focus.”
What will be the first exhibition you’ll have a hand in?
“Anna, our curator, is working on an exhibit called Five Corners and she’s done the whole of that, but I’ll get to participate in editing. That opens in April.”
How can people get more involved with the museum?
“We are always looking for volunteers, especially in our gift shop. The archives also recruits volunteers to help with their records. You can always purchase a membership which would include your access to the museum for the year along with other perks. And following us on social media, seeing what’s going on, what we’re doing, and actively participating in the events we’re putting on.”
You’ve only been in Chilliwack since the beginning on January. What do you like about it so far?
“We’re really enjoying the weather. I don’t think I’ve worn a jacket since we got here, so that’s been my favourite. We moved to B.C. to be closer to a lot of activities my husband and I are involved in. We went on the weekend for hikes, there’s a creek right by our house and it seems like a better life balance than where we’re from.”
Maurice is the former manager of the Lloydminster Saskatchewan Cultural and Science Centre. She holds a BA in anthropology and history as well as a graduate diploma in heritage management, degrees from the University of Alberta and Athabasca University respectively.
She moved to Chilliwack with her husband and their two young children at the beginning of January. Since then, Maurice has been in charge of the Chilliwack Museum and its young staff of seven employees.
For more, go to chilliwackmuseum.ca. Or visit them at 45820 Spadina Ave. Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.