The new head of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives fondly remembers learning the ropes as a volunteer at the museum back in his high school days.
Matthew Francis officially started his new job as the museum’s executive director this month, with a nod to his mentor, retiring interim director Ron Denman, for sparking his career interest in heritage and public history.
Asked about his vision as he settles in to his leadership role at the museum, Francis told The Progress he looks forward to a bright tomorrow for the organization.
“I think it’s about creating a future for our history and our heritage,” he said. “They have to be a part of what makes our community thrive and what makes it unique. Chilliwack has a great and rich history, and we need to uncover and celebrate that.”
Today Francis still has family ties in his hometown after graduating from Chilliwack secondary in 1996. He recently left a position with the Province of Alberta as the manager of municipal heritage services and Alberta Culture since 2008 to relocate to the city where he grew up, and take the ED job.
The first exhibit under Francis will be the upcoming Si:tel Coast Salish Baskets, Feb. 21. It explores the making of Coast Salish cedar baskets, as well as the trading and collecting of baskets, using specimens from the museum’s collection.
Getting to work with former museum head Ron Denman as a CSS student volunteer back in the 1990s was nothing short of inspirational, he said.
“It began my interest and journey in the field of history, heritage, museums and historical places,” Francis added. “It was really an inspiration.”
In his application for the position at the museum, he wrote, referring to retiring director Ron Denman: “I never properly thanked you for those hours you spent with me as a student volunteer from the high school, but I wanted to seize the day.
“That experience had a tremendous impact, and kindled something in me. I believe it set me on the path for my own career in heritage and public history.”
Denman has been acting interim director since last August.
“I will miss the place, but feel confident that Matthew can provide the vision and skills that are necessary to move the organization forward in the coming years,” Denman wrote in his outgoing message as interim director.
The public is invited to meet Francis at the museum in the Chambers Gallery with the opening reception of the basket exhibit on Feb. 21, 1 p.m to 3 p.m.